Bioscience Journal asked Life Sciences Minister George Freeman to assess the progress being made.
As the UK’s first ever minister for Life Sciences, I am determined to ensure that Britain remains the best place in the world to discover and develop 21st Century medicines and healthcare technology. Our key priority is to harness these groundbreaking new technologies to provide better healthcare for NHS patients. One of the key priorities in this area is the investment we have made in the 100,000 Genomes Project, where we are leading the world in taking genomics from a research environment into a clinical setting so NHS patients can begin to benefit from genomic medicine.
Our plans to sequence 100,000 genomes of patients with cancer or a rare disease and combine with hospital records will see us create a unique database that will position the UK as the premier place to carry out genomic research which could lead to earlier and more precise diagnoses and new and more tailored treatments. By harnessing the UK’s unique strengths in research, the NHS, medical charities and a vibrant life science cluster of innovative companies, we can accelerate access to new treatments and attract major new investment and growth.
Our priority is to keep the UK is at the forefront of financing innovative biomedical treatments that have the potential to give real patient benefits. The Government’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is a globally-unique integrated health research system in which the NHS supports outstanding individuals working in world-class facilities, conducting leading-edge research focused on the needs of patients and the public. In the wider context, UK companies raised £734 million of capital in the first half of 2014, surpassing the £483 million raised in the whole of 2013. Since the launch of our Life Sciences Strategy in 2011, we have secured more than £3.5 billion worth of investment in the UK’s life sciences sector, helping to create over 11,000 jobs. This is an exciting and growing sector and one that is vital to the future growth of the UK economy.
Research is a vital part of overcoming new and emerging illnesses. That’s why through the NIHR we are investing £1 billion annually to fund, support and deliver the highest quality clinical research in the NHS. By working together, the Government, the NHS, companies, charities, clinicians and patient groups can ensure that this country leads in the fast-emerging field of precision and personalised medicine.
This year we are launching the Medical Innovations and Med Tech Review. This will be a ground-breaking piece of work which will set out plans to drastically accelerate the time in which cost-effective new medical innovations to get from the lab to NHS patients. It currently takes on average over a decade and over £1 billion to develop a new drug – from the early pre-clinical research right through to being available for patients. The review will make recommendations to accelerate this, embracing ground-breaking developments in genomics and digital technology, to shave years from the time it takes to get new medicines, devices and diagnostics to NHS patients. As well as supporting earlier access to new medicines, we are also creating the water supply chain infrastructure to support our bioscience industry.
This year we’ve opened the country’s largest biosample centre in Milton Keynes. The NIHR National Biosample Centre will have the capacity to store around 20 million samples, making it a world leading location for researchers to store and get easy access to their samples. This new £24 million NIHR led centre will allow researchers to lead the way in finding diagnosis and treatments for conditions such as dementia and diabetes. Regenerative medicine is another area where the UK is a leader in an important field of medicine which has the potential to truly change the way we treat disease. With our world class research, key infrastructure and an active commercial sector this area has great growth potential and can deliver the next generation of healthcare, offering treatments or possible cures for areas of unmet medical needs.