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Working with industry to make the UK a global leader in life sciences

18 December 2018 | Dr Charlie Davie
Dr Charlie Davie gives us his take on the latest sector deal for life sciences.

This month saw the publication of the government’s second life sciences sector deal , which outlines the joint commitments of government and industry to make the UK a global leader in life sciences.

The deal, which builds on the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy published last year, includes a £79 million commitment for a research partnership between the NHS, industry and charities on early disease detection, plus more support for digitally enabled research.

There was welcome recognition in the deal for the strengthened role of academic health science networks (AHSNs) in improving access to new technologies and supporting the adoption and spread of products in the NHS. As part of the new licences with NHS England and the Office for Life Sciences, the 15 AHSNs across England will act as a bridge between industry and the NHS to identify the greatest health needs, signpost those developing innovative health solutions to the right places, help generate evidence and facilitate adoption for products and pathways that have clear benefit for patients.

It was also pleasing to see initiatives developed within the UCLPartners region mentioned– both in the context of successes in the past year, and areas for future development and investment.

For example, the deal highlights the important role of the advanced therapy biotech companies Autolus and Orchard Therapeutics that have spun out from UCL in the past few years. Between them these companies attracted hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in 2018.

The deal also flags the importance of industry-academia collaborations involving our partners, for example a new five-year collaboration on dementia research between UCL and the Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai. And it highlights how Barts Health NHS Trust, Queen Mary University of London and other partners are working to develop a major new life sciences hub in Whitechapel, with a total investment of £500 million.

It also demonstrates how initiatives that began in our region are now being adopted elsewhere. For example, the sector deal includes a commercial trial site for the North of England with investment from IQVIA. This builds on the success of the UCLPartners IQVIA Prime site which has been one of the top commercial recruiting sites into clinical trials in the UK, working across many of our NHS partner trusts.

Among the plethora of other national initiatives to support strengthened government-industry collaboration mentioned in the deal, there are two that UCLPartners will play a key role in delivering in 2019:

First, we will be supporting the rapid uptake of products identified through the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) – a fast-track route into the NHS for breakthrough medicines and technologies. In October, the first 11 products supported by the AAC were announced; these include a Multiple Sclerosis drug called Cladribine, which was developed by partners in our Academic Health Science Centre over several years. We will be taking a lead on supporting the drug’s rapid update both locally and nationally.

Second, we will be working as part of the OneLondon initiative to develop a Local Health and Care Record Exemplar across London. The aim is to transform how health and care data is shared between councils and the NHS across London, and by doing so ultimately save lives by providing health and care professionals with timely access to relevant patient records, supporting effective clinical decision making.

These examples demonstrate a vibrant and flourishing life science community producing significant benefit across the six million population covered by the UCLPartners academic health science system.

But we can be better. The key to building on our existing successes will be creating more comprehensive and systematic platforms to support innovation and improvement, better use of actionable data, enhancing our recruitment of patients into research studies and forging strong strategic partnerships with industry and academic partners. We look forward to working on this important agenda in 2019.