The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has used a speech to the Royal Society to praise the work of the UK life sciences industry.
Osborne made particular mention of new technologies surrounding regenerative medicines, saying the UK was in a leading position to translate this research in commercial success.
“This comes from our cross-disciplinary research strengths and our well-balanced legislative and regulatory framework,” Osborne says, “which has been essential to building comparative advantage in this area, and attracting researchers from countries seen to have more restrictive regulations.”
The UK already has world-class research in centres such as Edinburgh (where Dolly the sheep was first cloned), Cambridge, Leeds, and London – but Osborne says the UK will not rest on its laurels, and has also recently opened the new £73 million Centre for Translational and Experimental Medicine on Imperial’s Hammersmith Campus.
“This will house 450 scientists focusing on the translation of new discoveries into novel ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases,” he says. “We can grow new tissue and then remove distinctive features that cause rejection by the host so patients avoid having to spend the rest of their life time on drugs to combat tissue rejection.”
Current estimates of the global regenerative medicine industry value it at just over £500 million, with forecast generating revenues of over £5 billion by 2021. To help encourage this growth in the UK, the government has committed around £40 million to deliver its Strategy for UK Regenerative Medicine.
Osborne concluded that regenerative medicine is a ‘priority area’, adding that the government “will have more to say next month,” hinting at perhaps more good news for the sector.
Osborne also said that the UK is “well placed for the big data revolution”, which is being complemented by the UK’s “strong life sciences sector”. The future is linking ‘dry’ computer sciences and ‘wet’ biological sciences, he added.
ABPI welcomes Osborne’s positivity
Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the ABPI, said: “I am pleased to hear the government’s continued commitment to life sciences in the UK which is being backed with real investment.
“The Chancellor marked out a number of areas in which the UK is aiming to be a world leader and so I am delighted that synthetic biology and regenerative medicine were highlighted. Both of these fields of science will be of huge importance to developing the next generation of medicines in battling disease and treating patients.”
Whitehead said that the industry, in partnership with the government, will “be at the forefront driving forward these advances”. But he once again warned that the when these treatments are ready for use, they must “actually find their way to patients,” as he currently believes that the UK is not doing enough to allow new drugs to be delivered onto the NHS as quickly as possible.
The government recently launched the NICE Scorecard which aims to name and shame NHS bodies which are not allowing patients access to NICE-approved medicines within three months of new guidance from the watchdog.