£160m boost for UK life sciences

30 August 2017

The government is set to detail plans to invest £160m to make the UK a world leader in developing new drugs and healthcare technologies. 

Sir John Bell, professor of medicine at Oxford University, will present a review of the life sciences industry at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Translational Medicine later today. He will outline his proposals to ease the effect of leaving the European Union on the UK’s scientific research and pharmaceutical industry.

The review calls for increased funding for basic science, improving growth and infrastructure; more NHS collaboration through early access to new drugs and a plan to invest in skills across the NHS and life sciences.

The UK government said will be considering the recommendations as it drafts a deal between the UK and the global life sciences sector.

Since 2009, every year has seen a lowering of net exports of pharmaceutical products and medical devices, with the UK becoming a net importer for the first time in 2014, according to UN trade data

Last month, Pascal Soriot, chief executive of Anglo-Swiss pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, told the FT that Brexit was “slowing down decision-making and make people reluctant to invest in the UK”.

John Rountree, managing partner at Novasecta, which advises both UK and European pharmaceutical firms, told The Telegraph his clients were generally putting capital spending on hold until they had clarity over the post-Brexit landscape. 

“With supply chains across different countries, if there are extra barriers and paperwork, clearly that will be a deterrent for investment,” he said.

As SM reported in January, prime minister Theresa May’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper identified the £64bn life sciences sector as one of five major sectors, along with artificial intelligence and driverless cars, with the potential to boost the UK economy. 

In April, on the back of the green paper, the government announced it had set up the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and committed £1bn over the next four years to boost science and technology. 

At today's launch business secretary Greg Clarke will detail how £146m of the earmarked £1bn will support advanced therapies and medicines, vaccine development and manufacture in the UK. 

Separately, the Department of Health said it would also invest £14m in 11 medical research and development centres, bringing a total £160m worth of investment into the sector. 

Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries, which has lobbied for continuity in any Brexit deal, welcomed the government investment in life sciences. 

“We look forward to working with the government and other partners to implement these recommendations—including through a sector deal with the bio-pharmaceutical industry and a voluntary agreement on US medicines policy between industry and the Department of Health,” he said. 

“These measures will provide confidence for global companies in invest in the UK during and beyond Brexit.”

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