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Life science sector deal to protect NHS patients’ access to new treatments

What is happening to promote investment in life sciences in the UK?

A deal to place the UK at the forefront of innovative medical technologies could put NHS patients at the head of the queue for new treatments.

The life sciences sector deal, announced by the Business Secretary Greg Clarke and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, boasts input from 25 organisations as well as industry and government support.

Mr Hunt said the move ‘proves that life science organisations of all sizes will continue to grow and thrive in the coming years, which means NHS patients will continue to be at the front of the queue for new treatments’.

As reported last week, the move, part of the government’s industrial strategy, has already prompted investment from the giant pharma company MSD on a discovery research facility and headquarters in the UK, supporting 950 jobs including 150 new high-skilled and high-value research roles.

The deal places priority on research, genomics, clinical trials and attracting high-skilled jobs. Government investment of up to £210m is available for early diagnostics and genomics programmes through the industrial strategy challenge fund. This will contribute to the genomics programme in partnership with organisations including GSK and AstraZeneca and launch an artificial intelligence programme to develop digital pathology and radiology programmes in partnership with industry.

In counterpoint to the government’s optimism, this week the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Commons Select Committee heard evidence that pharma was worried about the possible effects on the industry of Brexit.

Rachel Reeves, chair of the committee, said: ‘The evidence we have received suggests the impact of Brexit on the cost of medicines, investment in the UK and access to new and innovative research and products may be threatened.’

She added: ‘There are serious concerns raised around the future regulation of pharmaceuticals, mutual recognition of medicines, and the prospect of damaging disruption to cross-EU drug supply chains.’

Further information

British Medical Journal: Brexit is shifting drug industry’s focus away from UK, MPs hear Government and life sciences sector agree transformative sector deal Industrial strategy White Paper Life sciences: sector deal

Parliament: Effects of Brexit on supply chain of medicines examined

Parliament: Pharmaceutical evidence highlights concerns for industry after Brexit

Wellards: Government gets behind accelerated access review

Wellards: Industrial strategy to boost life sciences and focus on ‘ageing society’