Keynote speeches

Keynote speeches at ABPI Conference 2024

2024 Richard 871X581

Richard Torbett, Chief Executive, ABPI

ABPI Chief Executive Richard Torbett opens the conference.

Read the introduction by Richard Torbett, Chief Executive, ABPI

Hello everyone,  

Welcome to the ABPI’s annual conference 2024. Thank you all for joining us, it’s an honour to have you.  

I’m Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the ABPI.  

A few housekeeping points before I start – there are no fire alarms due today, if we get an alarm, please follow a member of venue staff to the appropriate point outside. 

Please do join the conversation on social media at #ABPIConf24.   

I am excited to tell you that we have a fantastic array of speakers from across industry, government, life sciences and healthcare in store for you today.  

I hope we will all leave today understanding a bit more about where life sciences currently stand in the UK, the achievements we’ve had, and the work we still have to do.  

Please do take it all in, create new connections, meet new people, and visit the superb exhibitors who have joined us today.  

They all do important work with and for our sector, for the benefit of the NHS, patients and science, so please say hello and find out more.  

Now, before I say anything more about what we have planned for today, I want to show you something we are all quite excited about…. 

Please see video below 

What you’ve just seen is a trailer for a new campaign we will be launching later this year. With it, we hope to communicate the mission that everyone in this room shares.  

Whether you work for a company, in the health service or at a patient organisation. We’re all here to make life better for patients. 

If you want to find out more about this campaign, and even make your own contribution, please do check out the stand in the networking area later today. 

Today’s theme is ‘Delivering the future of UK life sciences’, but what does this really mean? 

Well, here is an example.  

When the ABPI sounded the alarm about the decline of UK patients’ access to industry clinical trials, we made it clear that timelines for study set-up and recruitment to time and target had to improve if the UK was to continue as a leading centre of research.  

The government listened, and following the O’Shaughnessy review, we now have a clear plan and strategy to rebuild global confidence in the UK’s clinical research offer.  

These efforts are starting to bear fruit.  

Our latest report showed that the number of industry clinical trials in the UK is beginning to stabilise, and annual recruitment rose by 15%.  

Another key area for the UK’s life sciences future is leadership in Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products or ATMPs – an area the ABPI has focused on for some time.  

The latest report by the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult showed that over 80% of ATMP trials in the UK are conducted by commercial sponsors.  

And that the UK is now delivering 14 per cent of the global pharmaceutical industry’s ATMP trials, compared to 2.2 percent of recruitment for global industry trials overall.  

So some progress in key research areas, even though there’s still more to do – and huge potential to go for, as increasing recruitment to industry clinical trials could unlock up to £3.5 billion of income for the NHS over five years.  

But to really deliver for the future, we cannot focus on research alone. We also need to support other parts of the ecosystem such as UK medicines manufacturing - and here too, we have made progress. 

In 2022 the government announced £60 million to support innovative live sciences manufacturing – a welcome start.  

But in 2023 ABPI alongside our colleagues in the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) made the case for more, and in the autumn statement the Chancellor increased the £60 million to £520 million.  

This dwarfs any previous capital grants programme for our sector in the UK in both scale and longevity, and is an achievement of which everyone involved should be rightly proud.  

However, to really deliver for UK life sciences across all parts of the ecosystem, we need to improve the commercial environment for innovative medicines—which is why we needed the change agreed to in the new Voluntary Scheme for medicines pricing and growth we negotiated last year.   

The VPAG negotiations last year were tough, but we believe the outcome underlines the essential role innovative medicines and vaccines will play in addressing the health challenges of the future.  

The deal allows the sector to grow faster than it has under the previous scheme should increase the UK’s international competitiveness over time.  

Importantly, it also recognises the pressing need to invest more in building NHS capacity to partner with industry on science and research to support innovation and economic growth. 

Under the new VPAG agreement with industry, the government has committed to several key reforms to improve the UK life sciences ecosystem and access to medicines for patients.  

This included pledges to trial new innovative payment models for cell and gene therapies and review the Commercial Medicines Framework.  

The delivery of these promises must be collaborative and transparent to industry and patient groups alike, but working together, we can make sure they happen.  

The government has made clear its ongoing commitment to life sciences and I look forward to hearing from Science Minister Andrew Griffith on this.  

We have also been actively engaging with Labour over the past year, and I look forward to hearing more from Chi Onwurah about Labour’s plans for life sciences.  

Peter Kyle was due to address us today but sadly is unable to join following a family bereavement - our thoughts are with him.  

In the run up to an election, we will be continuing in our mission to communicate huge economic and social value of our industry - to politicians, to the NHS and to wider society.  

Like most people here, I am proud to be part of an industry that has such a profound impact on people's lives.  

Every day, we are privileged to be at the forefront of innovation, driving progress, and improving health outcomes for millions around the world.  

It is thanks to life sciences innovation that once-fatal diseases are now manageable, that debilitating conditions can be treated, and that lives are being saved and transformed every single day. 

So, I want to close my remarks and kick off today’s conference with a sense of optimism about the future of our sector.  

Are we exactly where we want to be? Not yet.  

But we are making progress in all parts of the ecosystem, and it’s the ABPI’s members and their work that gives me huge optimism.  

I hope you all enjoy today’s conference, thanks again for coming, and let me now introduce Ben Lucas, Managing Director of MSD, to chair the first panel. 

ABPI 2024 Campaign - We share a common goal.

President's interview with Andrew Griffith, Minister of State for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

ABPI President Susan Reinow interviews Andrew Griffith, Minister of State for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

2024 Minister Griffiths 871X581

Read a summary of the President's interview with Andrew Griffith, Minister of State for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

In this session, the ABPI’s President Susan Rienow interviewed Andrew Griffith, Minister of State for Science, Research and Innovation. Susan welcomed Andrew Griffith to the stage and reprised his biography before and since entering Parliament.

Andrew opened his remarks by recognising the importance of UK life sciences and our sector's positive impact on people’s lives. He also recognised the need for businesses to have certainty and clarity in their environment, which is critical to making necessary decisions and to mobilising capital to invest in science and research.

He emphasised that the government has put its ‘money where its mouth is’ in focussing on life sciences. He said that while  DSIT is only a young department, it has clarity (of purpose), funding of £20 billion, and provides a good voice for the innovation system in government, including a pro-innovation regulatory framework. An example of this was the introduction of the International Recognition Procedure, although he recognised there is more to do in the regulatory space.

He said that one of the best ways to compete internationally is by being agile, and to do that, we need to improve the ‘clock speed’ of regulatory decisions.

Susan then asked him where he thought we were in creating an innovation economy and where we needed more work. Andrew responded that having the Innovation Framework set the way forward was good. He talked about skills as one area in which there had been progress so that the UK has the right skills for our sector. However, there was still more to do on that front.

He said there was also more to do to encourage innovation by allowing the public sector to have a different attitude to risk.

He also said that the government had remained true to its intention of putting more resources into R&D, despite geopolitical challenges, demonstrating the government’s commitment to science.

Susan then put to him the ABPI’s call to ensure the UK has the highest level of R&D spending in the G7. Andrew responded that the government knew how critical this was for the UK.

Andrew pointed out that the UK is currently the second highest spender on public health science in the G7, behind only the US, although it was difficult to measure like for like on that. He underlined the strength of UK sciences and research – in terms of our universities and our access to data.

When asked about the Voluntary Scheme and how to ensure it delivers, the Minister said there were challenges in having a big single healthcare system, but this is also an opportunity. And the most significant opportunity in our system ought to be the speed and accessibility of medicines. It also means we can ensure the trialling and data regimes are as seamless as possible. He also highlighted the opportunity from the investment fund as part of VPAG, and it was now a question of making that a reality.

He mentioned unlocking data as a key delivery issue, which he discussed with health colleagues. We have massive assets in areas like genomics and need to allow them to flow into the health system.

When Susan asked what the one thing that he’d ask the Prime Minister to do if the Conservatives form the next government, Andrew said the most important thing was to deliver on their existing plans. They didn’t want to create a lot of new plans when the existing ones had already been developed with the sector.

He emphasised the fact that the government had funded science and research and had a plan for a sustainable and stable economy.

2024 Onwurah 871X581

Keynote - Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister, Science, Research and Innovation

Keynote speech from the Shadow Minister.

Read the keynote speech by Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister, Science, Research and Innovation

Thank you Susan, It’s great to see you again and thank you for that fantastic introduction and thank you to the ABPI for inviting me to speak today.  

I know Peter very much wanted to be here, and I will pass on your condolences to him and his family.  

It’s a privilege for me to stand in his shoes, as it were.  

I really enjoy talking about Labour’s ambitions for the life sciences sector. It is such a good news story, and we don’t often have those in politics.  

It’s especially a privilege to address and audiences as extremely knowledgeable and experienced as you are.  

I did want to start with the immense contribution that life sciences makes to our economy and to our health.  

Our country has a proud history of medical innovation and research, from the very first mass immunisation programmes sixty years ago, the discovery of DNA, developing the CT and MRI scanners, through to ground-breaking treatments for cancer.  

That includes CAR-T therapy for childhood leukaemia, which reprogrammes the immune system to target cancer, which the RVI, the Royal Victoria Infirmary in my constituency in Newcastle was one of the first hospitals to deliver.  

And I understand that an earlier Newcastle United fan who was speaking earlier today managed to get references to the football team into his contributions. I shall try and limit references to Newcastle’s universities and hospitals, if I can.  

Your sector employs over 300,000 people and I think it’s important to emphasise that two-thirds of them are outside London, and the South East, and it really is the jewel in the crown of the British economy, with a turnover exceeding £100billion.  

And as the Shadow science minister it is a real pleasure to have so much dialogue and engagement with what is such a vibrant industry.  

Susan mentioned that I am an engineer, I still am a chartered engineer, and before coming into parliament I spent two decades working in the electrical engineering, telecommunications and tech sector.  

And I always say I entered politics for exactly the same reasons I entered engineering, and that was to make the world work better for everyone.  

And I see that same spirit in the life sciences sector. It truly changes people's lives, and their families’ lives, whether as patients, or as employees in good high-skilled and high-paid jobs.  

ABPI members make a huge contribution to this country, and I am very grateful for your ongoing engagement.  

This is not my first ABPI conference, I did speak here in 2017, a lot has happened in politics since then – I’ve lost count of the number of Prime Minister’s we’d had.  

But to be clear, my commitment to championing the life sciences is unchanging, but it’s not only me who recognises who vital your sector is to the country’s future, Keir Starmer, Wes Streeting, Rachel Reeves, Peter Kyle, are forever mentioning life sciences and championing the sector, and I think I can say that the whole Labour party is behind you.  

Because life sciences is at the crossroads of two critical missions for an incoming Labour Government, should we be elected.  

Firstly to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7, and secondly to create an NHS fit for the future.  

And the reason I said two and a half, is because with tech like engineering and biology, life sciences will also make a significant contribution to tackling climate change, and we have a mission to be a clean energy superpower, as well as recognising that climate change is a health crisis as well as a climate crisis – life sciences has a significant contribution to make there.  

SO we’re working across the party, listening to businesses to find the best way to turn our ambitions for your sector into tangible achievements that will make a huge difference to the lives of every single person in the UK.  

I’ll start with our plan for the life sciences, which I hope some of you are familiar with, it is called – wait for it – ‘A Prescription for Growth’.  

You can imagine how many hours of thought went into that…we got life sciences and growth into the same title, very proud of it.  

And the whole document was a collaboration between the shadow science team, the shadow treasury team, the shadow health team and the shadow business team, and all the Labour front bench, because your sector is so cross-cutting.  

We launched it at our business conference, and it emphasises how the life sciences are key to our economy, key to our growth and key to improving people’s quality of life.  

I think we can all agree on that.  

If Labour restored the UK’s share of global life sciences and R&D to its 2012 level, then that could mean an extra £10billion of R&D funding investment in the UK every year, and returning the sector to high growth rates could support and extra 100,000 jobs by 2030.  

SO we really need to build on the life sciences vision, we are not starting from zero, we are building on the life sciences vision and strengthening the foundation of the sector to achieve those goals.  

And we’ve committed to reducing the uncertainty faced by scientists, entrepreneurs, and businesses, whether dealing with the R&D system, with regulation, procurement, tax, or the planning system. Because we recognise that life sciences R&D is a long game, where consistency is key.  

Now I joked about the number of Prime Ministers, I have counted the number of science ministers that we’ve had, and they may last longer than a long-life lettuce, but they’ve had 8 science ministers in 5 years.  

We have every intention of being more dependable and long=-term partners for your industry if we form the next Government.  

And we would do so as one team, one Labour government, with the Department for Health and the Department for Science and Innovation and Technology working hand in hand, and a politically empowered office for life sciences.  

The Life sciences council will report directly into our statutory industry council, placing the life sciences right in the centre of our industrial strategy, because a consistent industrial strategy has been missing too.  

So I really do recommend for you ‘A prescription for growth’ and I will share a few more highlights.  

For starters, this is such a key issue that I hear from everyone in the life sciences sector, we are committed to implementing the recommendations of the O’Shaughnessy Review, so that we can transform the commercial clinical trials environment.  

As a universal system that supports a population of tens of millions, our NHS is a unique environment that researchers and developers should flock to to conduct clinical trials.  

SO we should be making the most of this massive opportunity, which is good for this industry, it’s good for patients, and its good for the sector as a whole.  

But unfortunately, we have seen that we have slipped down the rankings in the last few years, in fact we’ve fallen quite dramatically, and I know the value that clinical trials bring to my constituents, just taking part in them helps patients, researchers and clinicians and people across the country, so to see this drop off under the Tories has been really disappointing.  

The consequences for patients are very real, if you take cardiovascular diseases, one of the mission areas in the life sciences vision, last year Novartis announced plans to scrap a major trial involving 40,000 UK patients, focussing on an injectable drug that targets high cholesterol, which is a key risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. They made the move after careful evaluation of several factors that drive investment decisions in research and development activities.  

Instead Novartis will now run a similar trial around the world.  

So we want to see a surge back up the global league tables as its good for the economy and good for patients and we want to get UK clinical trials back in the position that they held.  

One of the other most important things to get right is the business environment, in life sciences, engineering and biology and across my brief.  

British innovators and developing world-leading products, but they can face a mountain of red-tape just to get started, which can mean requiring approval from 11 different regulators.  

And in some ways that’s not surprising, because new products and services can cut across existing regulatory boundaries, but it is not helping innovation.  

So Labour would establish a regulatory innovation office to help end regulatory backlogs. They would regulators to account, provide strategic steers from the industrial strategy and help bring new innovations to market sooner.  

And this would help to establish comparative regulatory advantage in what is a fast-moving field.  

IN what my constituents call my last proper job before entering politics, I was head of technology for Ofcom. So I have seen how regulation can be a barrier to innovation, but regulation which is forward-looking can also drive innovation and competition, and that is what we want to see.  

Our ambitions for life sciences will remain just that, words on a page, unless we get the regulatory environment optimised for success.  

And bodies life the MHRA firing on all cylinders in support of innovation.  

To create stability, we’ve said we will maintain the current structure and at least the current rates of R&D tax credits over the next parliament while cracking down on fraud, and we will empower innovative businesses with better access to finance, whether it is by consolidating pension funds, giving a new mandate to the British Business Bank, or our proposals for a British TIBI scheme.  

And as a bedrock for all this, we will make it easier to build the labs and the surrounding infrastructure that we need through our reforms of the planning system.  

A life sciences cluster in Whitechapel – not far from here – is running two years behind schedule thanks to the planning system. That’s absurd. We must perform better as a country, and that is part of our mission to get Britain building again.  

We have to perform better if we’re going to be competitive internationally.  

So giving life sciences businesses the space to grow, and sites for the NHS to carry out cutting-edge research, is undoubtedly good for the economy and good for patients.  

And lastly, on the NHS, it’s our greatest national asset in global life sciences and its greatest asset is its staff.  

Labour has committed to delivering on NHS England’s long-term workforce plan, to train the staff that the NHS needs to support more clinical trials in the future, and ensure we are competitive on the world stage.  

Alongside this we will ensure staff are equipped with the expertise they need to support research, and that those skills are valued by the system.  

If NHS staff are exhausted simply doing the day job, then its really hard to be vectors of innovation.  

So our commitment is to long-term workforce planning across the NHS and social care, we will review training and look at creating new types of health and care professionals that draw on a diverse skills mix including the skills staff need to do clinical trials and recruit patients.  

Now our NHS’s second greatest asset after its staff, is our population-wide data. This unique insight into health and disease can and should be an engine of innovation for our country.  

But we can only tap into its full potential if we can earn the trust of patients and the public by offering clear reassurance that data will be safe. The government has made a number of mistakes in this area.  

So we will continue to deliver on work underway to create linked secure data environments, and seize the opportunity of the NHS federated data platform.  

Digital systems can support healthcare and research going hand in hand, for example by making the NHS app a one-stop shop for health innovation.  

The life sciences vision is clear that successful implementation relies on the NHS as a critical innovation partner. But when it comes to the NHS we are too slow to spread new technology. This means patients experience a post-code lottery in getting access to state of the art treatments, staff are left out of using up to date equipment and digital tools, and innovations are passed from pillar to post around the system in attempting to get their new tech rolled out.  

Labour will make the NHS a better innovation partner. Because commercial clinical trials, and reorientating the NHS to support excellent research and adopt innovative practice is good for the economy, and good for patients.  

I could talk a lot more about skills, and our proposals for long-term R&D budgets, about trade, and the number of spinouts, there is a lot more to say, but I’m keen to get onto questions.  

I hope I’ve given you an indication of how important we see the life sciences, how fundamental they are to our industrial strategy and to our plans for growth, and our plans for growth are essential to delivering the prosperity that my constituents and everyone in the UK deserves and needs. 

So the ABPI and its members have helped shape our policy in this area, and I hope to continue that engagement in the months ahead, whether in opposition, or in Government.  

Thank you.  

Q and A  

On how Labour had created alignment in the shadow cabinet, Chi said that the government hadn’t capitalised on the strengths of the environment in the UK, for example in digital transformation. Labour is determined to have more of a mission-driven approach to growth.  

On prevention and how to reduce inequalities in access to medicines and vaccines, Chi said we saw in COVID how quickly and effectively a joined-up approach could deliver. Labour has looked at what worked and is keen to learn those lessons to create a system for driving vaccination. They also want to improve horizon scanning to know what vaccines are coming in the pipeline and how to drive access to those.  

On regulatory performance and what you’d want to see from the MHRA to make it world-leading, Chi said that the MHRA has a critical role to play, particularly post-Brexit. They have had challenges to address, but it has huge strengths and in recent months it has seen an improvement in its backlog (of approvals). Labour’s industrial strategy will set out where life sciences can be world-leading, and the regulatory innovation office will drive improvements in regulators like the MHRA. She recognised that the MHRA has to be resourced to do its job.  

On what Labour’s priorities for the first 100 days of Government would be, Ms Onwurah said that ensuring the O’Shaughnessy recommendations are implemented, creating the conditions for businesses to invest and ensuring access to investment funds for life sciences – including spin-outs, would be the party’s main priorities. 









Last modified: 06 June 2024

Last reviewed: 06 June 2024