The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy was launched, and received, with much enthusiasm this week at the Institute of Translational Medicine. It was a fitting venue: a world-class clinical research facility in Birmingham that helps progress scientific research into the latest treatments for NHS patients.
Sir John Bell has done an excellent job. After working closely with Sir John and his team as the Strategy has developed, the final version is an impressive document that provides a blueprint for a successful UK Life Sciences sector in a post-Brexit world.
The Strategy succeeds in balancing and representing the views of all players across this diverse and complex sector and shows the value of Life Sciences partners, academia, charities and Government, all working in partnership together and with the NHS to deliver health and economic benefits to the UK.
At the launch, Jeremy Hunt challenged us to be ambitious – the pace of change in our sector is so momentous that there's a real prize on offer for the UK.
He focussed on the benefits to patients and as part of that endorsed the need for early access and uptake of new medicines. We know that this is an area that, collectively, we have not yet delivered, but we are ready to go again to find solutions to make this a reality. For his part, he committed to a Government response to the Accelerated Access Review – which will help progress this – by the end of October and I very much look forward to seeing this.
If the recommendations in the Strategy itself are fully implemented, I believe its ambition and vision – that all of us in Life Sciences share with Jeremy Hunt – can be met. This won't just be good news for patients; it will be good news for scientists, doctors, business leaders and investors.
The Strategy offers ambitious challenges, Science, Growth, NHS, Data, and Skills – all areas where the UK can get ahead of the competition.
Sir John Bell was right when he said the Industry and NHS relationships are vital. He called for even closer collaboration and I absolutely echo this.
The NHS needs to be at the heart of this Strategy. Our health service holds a unique offer for healthcare innovators to use real-world health data. Making the best use of data and digital tools to support research and better patient care – and opening up further opportunities for collaboration, shows the rest of the world that the UK is serious about becoming one of the best places in the world to research, develop and use new medicines and health technologies.
If we get this right, the UK can open itself up to be at the forefront of cutting-edge clinical research; NHS hospitals will reap the benefits of global clinical trials and the financial rewards they bring; doctors can prescribe the very latest treatments and patients – our families and friends – will get the very best standard of care. This ecosystem can deliver for everyone.
With the willingness demonstrated by everyone on Wednesday morning, I see no reason why the NHS cannot realise this potential, embracing the new ways the industry develops and delivers the latest medical breakthroughs to facilitate more sustainable and better care.
As a case in point, this week's momentous decision taken by the US Food and Drug Administration to approve the use of Kymriah – a gene therapy that engineers a patient's own immune system to attack cancer – is an exciting glimpse into tomorrow, today. And with a great number of similar advances on the horizon, but no established global centre of expertise, countries around the world are preparing to compete to attract investment. The UK must act quickly and decisively – and this Strategy could not come at a better time.
Many of building blocks are already in place. Leveraging the UK's world leading position in science and technology, and making the most of the fiscal certainty to invest in new medicines provided through the current - and future - Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS), Britain can become the global leader in developing and delivering the cutting-edge, high-quality medicine of the future.
We now need to push on and build on this, working with Government to ensure that we can attract long-term investment from global pharmaceutical companies, who between them are central to a thriving Life Sciences sector. Biopharmaceuticals is a £30billion industry and critical to the UK's economic success, both in terms of inward investment and from the employment generated across the whole UK. Securing and building on its future will be especially important as we leave the European Union and will send a clear signal to global boardrooms that post-Brexit Britain is an attractive place to invest.
As Sir John pointed out in Birmingham, a successful Life Sciences sector is a big win for the UK economy and it is a UK wide endeavour. This is not about London, or Cambridge, or Manchester or any single city; it's about a whole range of companies and organisations, small and large, spread across many towns throughout the UK. As the global Life Sciences market continues to grow, we must seize the chance for Britain to become the industry's partner of choice, bringing huge benefits to the patients and employees in towns and cities across the country.
Opportunities like this don't come along often, and I look forward to working with Life Science partners and Government on a sector deal which will be crucial in bringing this impressive Strategy to life.