New Life Sciences strategy launched by UK Government

A new Life Sciences Vision that will inform health and care across England has been announced by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The strategy is part of a wider collaboration between government departments, including the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Seven targets have been set out by the DHSC:

  • Accelerating the pace of studies into novel dementia treatment
  • Enabling early diagnosis and treatments, including immune therapies such as cancer vaccines
  • Sustaining the UK’s position in vaccine discovery, development, and manufacturing
  • Treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases and its major risk factors, including obesity
  • Reducing mortality and morbidity from respiratory disease in the UK and globally
  • Addressing the underlying biology of ageing
  • Increasing the understanding of mental health conditions, including work to redefine diseases and developing tools to address them.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “We have made immense strides in health research over the past year – the discovery of the use of dexamethasone and our vaccine rollout have been crucial to saving hundreds of thousands of lives and tackling COVID-19.

“It’s crucial we continue to harness this enthusiasm and innovation and map out a new route as we build back better. Today’s bold vision commits to putting the lessons we’ve learnt into action to transform the UK into a life sciences superpower.”

Sir John Bell, Professor at Oxford University and Sir Jonathan Symonds, Chair of GSK, chaired the Vision’s advisory board.

The foreword outlines that the main goal of the Vision is to “tackle seven great healthcare challenges: Cancer, Dementia, Mental Health, Obesity, Ageing, Respiratory Disease and Vaccines – and use the drive and ingenuity of the private sector, skill and intellect of UK academia, and scale and expertise of the NHS to make meaningful process.”

The Vision has four key themes to improve healthcare:

  • Building on the new ways of working from COVID-19 to tackle future disease missions.
  • Building on the UK’s science and clinical research infrastructure and harnessing the UK’s unique genomic and health data.
  • Supporting the NHS to test, purchase and spread innovative technologies more effectively, so that cutting-edge science and innovations can be embedded widely across the NHS as early as possible, and rapidly adopted in the rest of the world.
  • Creating the right business environment in the UK in which companies can access the finance to grow, be regulated in an agile and efficient way, and manufacture and commercialise their products in the UK.

The Vision calls for Clinical Research to be further supported by the NHS and says there will be a change to create “research positive culture” and this will be done by:

  • Creating the system capacity, incentives, and enablers in the NHS to support all staff to actively participate in research and innovation programmes.
  • Making it a core expectation of the incoming Chief Executive of NHS England, as well as national, regional, and local NHS leadership and the Department of Health and Social Care that they actively support the research, innovation, and uptake agenda. Forthcoming legislation will create specific duties for Integrated Care Systems in England to promote and support research and innovations.
  • Monitoring and reporting research and innovation activity across the NHS, to increase transparency and allow for constructive, evidence-based improvement in places where focus on research and innovation could be increased.
  • Government, working with the Professional Regulators, will embed research and innovation in standards for registered professionals and provide the necessary support and development resources to help healthcare professionals be research active.
  • Fully delivering the UK Clinical Research Recovery Resilience and Growth Programme in response to the challenges created by the pandemic, including restarting non-COVID-19 research to recover to pre-pandemic levels as soon as possible and delivering a broad suite of actions to make the UK clinical research environment faster, more efficient, and more resilient.

Health inequalities are addressed in the policy with an action plan that will tackle regional disparities across the UK, in the Life Sciences sector:

  • Driving economic growth and self-sustaining clusters of excellence across the UK, such as supporting Manchester to become a world leading centre for Genomics and Data; building on the unique medtech heritage in Yorkshire and Humber; and developing Liverpool’s reputation as a leading centre for Infection and Immunology.
  • Tackling the most pressing healthcare challenges such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity, which disproportionately impact those from the most deprived areas and minority backgrounds.
  • Creating a competitive environment to incentivise and onshore high-value manufacturing capabilities in the UK, including in regions outside of London and the South-East, where there is deep expertise in pharmaceutical and medtech manufacturing.
  • Developing a high-skilled workforce and strong pipeline of talent across industry, academia, and the NHS, including through improving uptake of apprentices, to support the development of new and existing manufacturing centres across the UK.

A range of organisations have signed up to contribute to the Life Sciences programme, such as Cambridge University, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The full report is available online here.