The government has launched a £200 million life sciences investment programme to support innovation in the sector.

The 10-year strategy includes seven healthcare missions focused on the early prevention, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of disease. It will also aim to accelerate the development and adoption of new drugs, diagnostics, medical technology and digital tools for a wide array of diseases — building on successes of Covid-19 response and accelerate delivery of innovations to patients.

The vision outlines seven “critical” healthcare missions that government, industry, the NHS, academia and medical research charities will work together on at speed to solve – from cancer treatment to tackling dementia. They include:

  • Accelerating the pace of studies into novel dementia treatment
  • Enabling early diagnosis and treatments, including immune therapies such as cancer vaccines
  • Sustaining the UK’s position in vaccine discovery, development and manufacturing
  • Treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases and its major risk factors, including obesity
  • Reducing mortality and morbidity from respiratory disease in the UK and globally
  • Addressing the underlying biology of ageing
  • Increasing the understanding of mental health conditions, including work to redefine diseases and develop tools to address them

Commenting on the vision, Richard Torbett, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “This is an ambitious statement about how the UK can become a life sciences superpower.

“We’ve seen just how important the partnership between industry, the government and the NHS has been to the response to the pandemic, and we need to take the same approach if we are going to make the UK a global hub for life sciences.

“By putting the NHS at the centre of the vision, we can also deliver for patients and make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop, manufacture, and use the latest medicines and vaccines.”

While the vision aims to cultivate a “business environment” which would benefit the UK life sciences companies, by enabling access to finance for innovation and growth, a key sector of generic manufacturers feel slighted.

BGMA astonished at being sidelined

Mark Samuels, chief executive of the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) flagged concerns about the government’s vision for life sciences.

He said: “A key theme from the government’s vision for life sciences is that it addresses and supports the diversity of the sector yet it entirely ignores our industry which ultimately supplies four out of five NHS medicines.

Mark Samuels, CEO of the British Generic Manufacturers Association

“I find it astonishing that we are both relied upon as a critical element of medicines supply yet side-lined and taken for granted when it comes to these forward-looking funding initiatives.

“Of course it is critical to invest across the life sciences sector — particularly in light of what has been achieved via the Covid-19 vaccines — but the pandemic has also taught us that innovation is not just to be found in new and untried areas.

“The first medicine approved to effectively treat patients suffering with Covid-19 was a repurposed generic in Dexamethasone. We believe there are scores of existing generic medicines which –  with just a fraction of the funding talked about in the OLS (off of the life sciences) vision – could be used to treat unmet patient need.

“We also have grave concerns that the vision also places more work and onus on the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) at a time when it is also facing significant budget cuts which will ultimately impact patient access to medicines.”

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