The ‘Life Sci for Growth’ package brings together 10 different policies and also includes:
- Up to £48m of new money for scientific innovation to prepare for any future health emergencies
- £154m to increase the capacity of the UK’s biological data bank further aiding scientific discoveries
- Up to £250m to incentivise pension schemes to invest in the most promising science and tech firms.
Alongside the funding, HDR UK also welcomes a review by Lord O’Shaughnessy to make it easier for clinical trials to be run in the UK, and a review by Professor Dame Angela McLean of regulatory systems in the life sciences.
Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, said:
“The government’s set of announcements to support the life sciences in this country is welcome. The investment in infrastructure, the new public-private partnerships and the boost to research on mental health conditions are good news for the sector.
“But I believe that the two reviews announced today are just as important: the publication of Lord O’Shaughnessy’s recommendations to make it easier for clinical trials to be run in the UK and the review of regulatory systems in the life sciences led by Professor Dame Angela McLean.
“Figures from the pharmaceutical industry body the ABPI show that the number of industry clinical trials started in the UK each year fell by 41% between 2017 and 2021. We have fallen behind many other international countries in a short space of time. This is devastating for pharma in the UK and its impact on jobs and the economy, but more importantly for patients in the UK. Involvement in clinical trials tends to make it more likely that patients can access new and effective treatments more quickly. The recommendations in the O’Shaughnessy review point to ways forward to reverse this decline.
“The one missing thing in today’s announcements that would transform life science research in the UK is a positive conclusion to the talks for the UK to access the EU’s Horizon research programme. Research today is built on team science with collaborations across the globe. Working alongside other top scientists in Europe benefits everyone and keeps all our research at the cutting edge, speeding benefits for patients and the public.”
Research Professor Marion Mafham, a Research Director at Health Data Research UK and the University of Oxford, said:
“The focus on improving the landscape for carrying out clinical trials in the UK in the O’Shaughnessy review is excellent news.
“Randomised controlled trials are essential to reliably assess the effects of medicines, surgery and other healthcare interventions to treat or prevent disease. Patients stand to benefit from access to new and better treatments more rapidly.
“To reliably detect effects on important but uncommon health outcomes (for example, on heart attack or cancer recurrence), randomised trials need to be sufficiently large so researchers have enough data to get a reliable answer – often requiring several thousands of participants over many years.
“Some randomised trials have become so complex and costly to run that their very existence is under threat. The clinical trial costs of developing new treatments are currently estimated to be $500 million to $3 billion, encouraging the pharmaceutical industry to focus only on developing high-income drugs.
“As the O’Shaughnessy review points out, it is possible to make the clinical trials process more efficient and effective, and to make the UK a more attractive place for pharma to carry out its trials. I’m particularly pleased to see support for the safe use of data already collected in the NHS to identify and invite patients to join clinical trials relevant to them, and for researchers to be able to analyse health outcomes for patients in trials without having to collect and check the data by hand.
“This could potentially transform clinical trials – enabling more UK patients to take part in research studies and producing robust results which improve care.”
Conflicts of interest:
- Lord James O’Shaughnessy, who led the independent review of the UK clinical trials landscape, is a board member of Health Data Research UK.
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Interview with Heather Rutter, Senior Clinical Research Nurse, Primary Care Clinical Trials Unit, University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Science.