UK life sciences sector applauds government's Life Sciences Blueprint

16 July 2009

The UK’s life sciences trade associations — the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and the British In Vitro Diagnostic Association (BIVDA) — have expressed support for the package of measures announced this week by the Office for Life Sciences in its “Life Sciences Blueprint” (See MTB Europe story: UK government launches strategy to put innovative technology into health services).

The associations say that it provides an excellent basis for firmly securing the future of the life sciences sector and re-establishing the UK’s global competitive position.

From an industry perspective, they say, the most significant measures outlined in the Blueprint, which is the result of six months of co-ordinated activity across four government departments working together with industry, the NHS and academia, are:

  • An “Innovation Pass” which will allow patients faster access to innovative medicines. The Pass, to be administered by NICE, will allow time-limited use of innovative medicines on the NHS. The Pass will be piloted in 2010/2011 with a budget of £25 million set aside by the Department of Health.
  • The establishment of NHS accountability that drives the uptake and diffusion of innovative medicines and technologies, including the creation of a Strategic Health Authority Delivery Group to improve both uptake and engagement between industry and the NHS. The formation of this group demonstrates direct NHS commitment to working with industry and underpins the NHS Chief Executive’s personal responsibility for an NHS programme of action to drive greater quality, innovation, productivity and prevention, including Payment By Results, to accelerate the uptake of medical technologies.
  • The reinforcement of the need for greater emphasis on research in clinical trials in the next NHS Operating Framework.
  •  The commitment by HM Treasury to further investigate the possibility of a “patent box” tax incentive offering a lower rate of tax on profits derived from patents located in the UK to encourage the creation and exploitation of intellectual property in the UK, with proposals to be made ahead of the 2009 Pre-Budget Report.
  •  The launch by the Technology Strategy Board of an £18 million Regenerative Medicine programme of investment to support key areas of commercial R&D and the development of R&D partnerships, supported by additional funding of £3.5 million from Research Councils.
  •  The establishment of a UK Innovation Investment Fund (previously announced on 29 June 09) to invest in technology-based businesses with high-growth potential, including life sciences companies, which will reinvigorate private investment in life sciences.

There are many other actions detailed in the Blueprint document, including measures to support skills in life sciences and the creation of a UK Life Sciences Super Cluster which will support and enhance those detailed above.

Clearly the detailed development and implementation of these measures is the next stage in the process and industry will continue to work closely with the relevant government departments on seeing these through. Assuming the full implementation of these actions, industry believes they do have the potential to significantly transform the prospects of the life sciences sector in the UK.

The establishment of the Office for Life Sciences and the process of industry working together with all the relevant government departments in this way marks a unique approach towards tackling the variety of challenges faced by industry. The actions announced today are testament to the benefits of this joined up approach and demonstrate a transformational change in the attitudes at the top of Government and within the NHS.

Richard Barker, Director General of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said: “In January, we warned the Prime Minister that the life sciences industry in the UK needed a shot in the arm. Gordon Brown has clearly heeded that warning. The OLS blueprint charts a course of action which is both sound and welcome. Its delivery will require a full sail and a steady and determined hand on the tiller. When the ship is steered safely home, it will deliver a truly transformational change for the life sciences industry in the UK.”

Peter Ellingworth, Chief Executive of the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI) said: “ABHI welcomes the cross-Government recognition of the issues facing the life sciences industry and the Government's response. In particular I welcome the proposal for an SHA Delivery Group and for a review of systems and levers to be led by David Nicholson personally with welcome attention for the crucial system of Payment by Results. Taken together, these measures have the potential to make a new relationship between industry and the NHS and we look forward to working on a new partnership that will enable the speedy adoption of medical technologies.”

Dr Clive Dix, Chairman of the BioIndustry Association (BIA), said:
“The Office for Life Sciences has announced a package of measures which, when implemented, will have a significant impact on the life sciences sector in the UK. The combination of these inter-dependant actions will give the sector a solid grounding for the future. We are extremely pleased that the hard work and effort of all parties involved in the process has resulted in these major achievements, the importance of which should not be underestimated. Continued strong leadership will be vital in driving these actions forward. The bioscience industry looks forward to playing its part in the process.”

Doris-Ann Williams, Director General of the British In Vitro Diagnostic Association (BIVDA), said: “BIVDA has been pleased to work alongside Government and other industry colleagues in developing this Blueprint which we warmly welcome. The diagnostics sector was especially pleased to see the strong engagement of the NHS for the delivering innovation of new medical technologies in the action plan. The investment in education for pathology was also welcomed as this is seen as a gap in current medical training - understanding the role of diagnostics is crucial for the effective use of diagnostic tools, especially in stratified medicine. BIVDA now looks forward to its role in participating to fully deliver the actions in the Blueprint.”

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