Just last week, the ABPI warned that the UK is falling behind Europe and the rest of the world in terms of numbers of students studying many STEM subjects vital for discovering the advanced treatments and technologies of the future.
The figures came from the ABPI’s latest biennial survey of member pharmaceutical companies, looking at the challenges of recruiting suitably qualified and experienced staff.
In her foreword to the skills gap analysis, our Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Carole Longson, said the UK’s position as a leading global hub in life sciences is in large part driven by the quality of our UK workforce with outstanding skills and talents in companies, universities and, of course, the NHS.
So it’s most timely that the much awaited independent Topol Review has now been published.
Eric Topol, a cardiologist, geneticist, and digital medicine expert, was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health to carry out a review into the digital training needs of NHS staff. He has made clear that cross sector collaboration is vital for the future of the health service and that our workforce must adapt its skill set to the rapidly evolving technologies coming down the line.
The ABPI report focussed solely on the biopharmaceutical industry, but it also identified genomics as a rapidly evolving field and crucial priority where industry skills needs lie. Its use is driving a new era of medicines discovery and a raft of patient health benefits. We also identified informatics and computational disciplines as areas of need along with immunology and clinical pharmacology.
These same areas are also recognised in the Topol Review recommendations in one form or another, such as the need for: core training in genomic literacy; career pathways for bioinformaticians; expansion of undergraduate capacity in genomics, bioinformatics and data science.
Together these reports highlight the need for a substantial increase in availability of cross-disciplinary talent to feed the needs of a world where increasingly patients are better informed and take more ownership of their care.
Both reports also complement previous commitments announced in the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Sector Deal 2 to work with Health Education England to align industry’s support for work on medical careers with the Topol Review. We can now take this work forward.
The UK has the potential to be a world-leader in healthcare technology and in medicines and vaccines research and development.
This is an exciting area of science and we want young people in the UK to be equipped to lead this work, alongside other countries such as Germany, France and China who are all making strides in developing advanced treatments and technologies for patients.
It is logical that progress in meeting these challenges will be most effectively addressed through collaboration across industry, NHS and academia.
It’s most timely that the much awaited independent Topol Review has now been published.
Andrew Croydon, Director of Skills and Education policy at ABPI