Major changes could occur to the life science industry over the next few years, after 22 partnerships have been announced with UK contract research organisations (CROs) in a bid to boost research and development (R&D) in the sector.
Medicines Discovery Catapult has announced these CROs will join its Virtual R&D Discovery Services platform. It believes that by combining private sector CROs with expert laboratories, this will improve the country’s international competitiveness by encouraging the discovery of new drugs and treatments.
Dr Peter Simpson, chief scientific officer of Medicines Discovery Catapult, said: “Our aim is to support SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) through convenient access to excellent assays and specialist drug discovery services.”
Following the move from a fully-integrated model of drug discovery to a virtual platform, outsourcing these achievements, life sciences has become dependent on SMEs for their innovation and discovery.
However, Britain could find itself falling behind other countries in the future, as 42 per cent of biotech SMEs has five staff at most, despite the fact they need top-quality scientific knowledge and skills, as well as access to the best technology in the field. Therefore, there could be more life science vacancies available to provide this expertise, as a result of this partnership.
Discovery Services helps by matching SMEs with CROs, at the same time making sure intellectual property is kept secure and providing Medicines Discovery Catapult’s knowledge to the partnerships.
The advantage of this to CROs is that they can then gain better access to the market, allowing them to reach customers they would otherwise not have been able to connect with.
They will also benefit from a full project review, assessment of data packages, management of delivery plans, support when it comes to interpreting and assessing data, and advice on development plans, as well as gap analysis.
Mr Simpson stated: “UK-based CROs can meet a wide range of needs for drug discovery innovators, and we are delighted to work in partnership with them to provide advice and project management to help ensure these relationships are successful.”
The Virtual R&D platform is part of the UK’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. This report, which was produced by the life sciences sector for the government, is aimed at helping Britain become a ‘world-leading position’ in the industry over the next 20 years.
In the report, John Bell, Regius professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford and chairman for the Strategic Coordination of Health Research, stated the government’s support for the industry over the next five years is essential.
“With that in place, the strategy will emerge as a dynamic set of actions that will ensure the most desirable outcomes for the economy, industry and the NHS,” he commented, adding that the strategy is a “unique opportunity for the country”.
Medicines Discovery Catapult is helping this outcome turn into a reality through its Virtual R&D, which will support the discovery of new drugs.
Dr Kath Mackay, director of Ageing Society, Health & Nutrition of Innovate UK, said this support is crucial for the sector, adding: “Bringing together academia, SMEs and CROS will drive drug discovery with benefits for society and the economy.”