The UK’s four key healthcare trade associations have launched a new initiative to build on the government’s commitment to transform the life sciences environment in Britain.

Launched yesterday, LifeSciencesUK will facilitate joint working between the UK’s major human healthcare industries: biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostics. The initiative’s founder members are the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA), all of which will continue to represent their individual sector interests.

LifeSciencesUK will present a “strong, unified voice to the government, allowing for better collaboration with industry across departments, particularly those of business and health, as well as to academia, patient groups, the media and other stakeholders,” say the associations. This will be instrumental in bringing the benefits offered by the life sciences sector not only to the national economy, but also to UK patients in the form of improved and more cost-effective health care, they add.

The initiative has been born out of the associations’ collaborative work with the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) and on other topics of joint interest, such as the recent submission to the government’s growth review. Its key objectives will include a drive to continuously improve the investment environment for UK companies, improve access to new medicines, devices, technologies and diagnostics and to demonstrate the importance of UK life sciences to the national economy, say the partners.

“Global competition in life sciences is mounting, so we need to ensure the UK’s comparative advantage remains high. By working together, our united force will strive to ensure patients have access to the new medicines and technologies they need,” said ABPI director general Richard Barker. “We want the UK to be the number one destination for international life sciences investment. The life sciences sector is a jewel in the UK’s economic crown and will be vital in getting Britain back on its feet,” he added.

Peter Ellingworth, chief executive of the ABHI, noted the importance to both the life science industry and the UK economy that all four organisations work together to ensure that the UK is a fertile environment for life science companies - whether large or small, science or manufacturing based, while BIA chief executive Nigel Gaymond said the initiative will enable to the industry to present a “united and powerful voice.” This will allow them to be more effective in creating a supportive environment for the industry, ultimately resulting in greater health care benefits for patients, and also a further step towards increasing the visibility of the UK as a global destination for life sciences, he added.

BIVDA’s director general Doris-Ann Williams said her group has enjoyed working closely with the other life sciences trade associations over the last two years, and that better communication and coordination between our sectors has been “of enormous benefit in highlighting life sciences’ sizeable contribution to the UK economy and its vital importance in improving healthcare in this country.”

Government ministers have also welcomed the move. Health Minister Lord Howe said it is an “exciting initiative” that will allow the industries to “work closely in helping the NHS provide quality care and improve productivity with new technologies,” while Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said he was looking forward to LifeSciencesUK working closely with Chris Brinsmead, the government’s life sciences business adviser, “to support Lord Howe and myself so the industry can realise the UK’s potential in this area.”