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ABPI conference panel session: Building on the UK’s global strengths

The ABPI Annual Conference's final session was on 'Building on the UK's global strengths'. 

Speaking at the session were: 

  • Amit Aggarwal, Executive Director, Medical Affairs at Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Dame June Raine, Chief Executive at Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
  • Mark Effingham, Deputy CEO at UK Biobank
  • Nathalie Kingston, Director at NIHR BioResource
  • Roz Campion, Director at Office for Life Sciences

Amit Aggarwal, ABPI Executive Director of Medical Affairs, started the session by highlighting that the UK has some genuinely unique strengths and assets, but also some challenges. He noted that the Government has recognised life sciences as a key growth sector.

He said the UK needs to aspire to be world class in health outcomes, recognising the economic benefits this can afford.

He said the session could be called ‘reasons to be cheerful’ for life sciences.

In her opening remarks Dame June Raine, MHRA, said the regulator has a huge commitment to delivering on its Brexit freedoms, by making the UK the go to place for R&D. This means transforming processes, working with their people and working in “partnerships with purpose.”

She outlined three ways the MHRA can deliver on this.

Firstly, by overhauling the legal framework, to simplify and streamline the regulatory process as announced in Jeremy Hunt’s Budget. She talked about the need to simplify, streamline and “take out of the law anything which can seem a block.”

Secondly, by catalysing the move for innovative trial design so that it becomes part of the trial infrastructure. She said we need to take the trial to the patient, and we have the assets with which to do this.

Finally, she said they (the agency) needs to deliver on performance. She said the MHRA needs to be excellent in turning round clinical trial protocols, they have committed to get back to excellence and are working with HRA on parallelisation (of MHRA and HTA approvals).

She also highlighted that the MHRA is waiting for Lord O’Shaughnessy’s review and further directions from Patrick Vallance to see if any changes need to be made to their main objectives, but fundamentally “partnerships with purpose” will remain a core mission.

Mark Effingham, UK Biobank talked about UK Biobank being a special part of the UK research landscape and praised the altruism of patients who take part in UK Biobank research. It has become a showcase on the global stage for providing very high-quality data.

On the organisation’s offer, they have a unique biomedical database with the intent to undertake large-scale data collection (including DNA extraction) for sharing with the wider research community.

He emphasised that there really is commitment and interest in the public to take part in research, referencing approximately 14,000 people who came forward to take part in their database within a few days.

He said the organisation had been approached to increase the data they have but asserted that their focus going forward was on the existing cohort and longitudinal work.

Nathalie Kingston, NIHR BioResource, said that NIHR BioResource is another excellent UK asset with a focus on different types of disease.

What differentiates them is the fact that they look at patients of a specific phenotype or genotype. They have a role in improving precision health.

She cited one example of their project on improving black health, which has more than 100 recruiting sites in England.

She highlighted that NIHR BioResource is increasing resources in the most deprived areas to improve health outcomes across the board. It works with industry to support recruitment to clinical studies. It’s smaller in scale but is taking a more targeted approach to improve health outcomes.

She emphasised that “the Bioresource is open for business – engage with us and see what we have to offer.”  

Roz Campion, Office for Life Sciences outlined her reasons for the life sciences sector to be cheerful.  

She asserted there was clear political commitment from “a succession of ministers” over the previous year on life sciences.

She cited the creation of DSIT (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology), bringing together the capabilities that it has, is a strong signal from govt that life sciences is the sector of the future.

She also said the Government was building on the leadership and learning from the Vaccines Taskforce as part of the Life Sciences Missions – with industry and NHS at the heart of plans.

She cited the appointment of Roland Sinker, someone who really cares about business’s agenda, to lead on the innovation agenda as an example of NHS commitment.

She said the VPAS negotiations were a ‘watch out’, but talked about the commitment from the PM, Chancellor, and Health Secretary to deliver a deal that works for “patients, the NHS and all of you” (industry).

She praised the “careful engagement” of the ABPI with Government on VPAS and said that the Government has listened to challenges faced with clinical trials and that any upcoming life sciences publications would have a plan for implementation.

She also announced that Lord O’Shaughnessy’s review would be published in May 2023.

  • Annual Conference

Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023