UK Aims To Become Life Sciences Superpower

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock set out his plans for the future of the UK life sciences sector at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) annual conference.

The speech, published in a GOV.UK press release highlights the significant advancements made in the life sciences sector since the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, from developing treatments for the coronavirus and launching the first Antivirals Taskforce, to the rollout of the UK’s vaccination programme.

To help the nation achieve its life sciences superpower status, Hancock announced there would be £37 million worth of new investments in genomics projects and data-driven incentives.

Genomics England projects supporting the implementation of the Genome UK strategy will receive £17m, including funding to explore public attitudes to, and the potential value of, newborn sequencing, contributing to the increase in data from ethnic minorities in genomic cohorts and data sets and supporting a next-generation approach to cancer diagnosis.

Hancock said: “We’ve managed to accelerate things, that often happens in a crisis, but crucially, we’ve got to hold on to those things and translate the lessons we’ve learned, especially from the things that have gone well – the discovery of dexamethasone, our vaccines project.”

He said that the UK public has never been more engaged in health research and that enthusiasm needs to be harnessed with further projects that tackle cancer, dementia, and preventing heart disease.

Support for the UK Functional Genomics Initiative will help drive innovative approaches to improve understanding of how genetic changes cause disease. Genomics sequencing will be used as a routine part of everyday diagnosis and treatment.

£20 million will be invested in initiatives to harness UK health data for life sciences research as part of the ambition to make the UK the most advanced and data-enabled clinical research environment in the world.

This includes investment in clinical trials, funding to develop medicines and vaccines, health technologies to support cutting-edge research such as the COVID-19 vaccine trials, and studies supporting the earlier detection of disease.

Hancock also pledged to make the UK a global leader in manufacturing, especially in medicines, to help grow UK-based business and to encourage further investment, highlighting the establishment of the new Medicines and Diagnostics Manufacturing Transformation Fund.

Hancock said a message to would-be investors in the life sciences sector is that the government is committed to free trade and contract law and that the industry, being global in nature, depends on international collaboration and international supply chains, possibly more than any other industry.

“But we know, and I believe fundamentally, that the best way to protect all our supply chains is not protectionism, it’s openness,” he added.

“I want to make crystal clear Britain’s unshakeable commitment to free trade and contract law – a covenant on life sciences, if you like, that gives those who want to invest and build their businesses in the UK the assurance they need that you can export the medicines made here to your destination market.”

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