Britain is lagging behind the US, China and other parts of the developed world in biomedical research – specifically in the creation of Biomedical Clusters – according to a leading NHS Chief Executive.

Speaking yesterday at ‘The Future of Health’ conference organised by think-tank Reform in London, Professor Stephen Smith, chief executive of Imperial College NHS Healthcare Trust, cited the UK’s current inability to utilise its inherent creativity in life sciences as a major barrier to future economic growth, and warned it must act now or be left behind.

Biomedical Clusters concentrate groups of public and private sector scientific organisations such as research institutions, world-class universities, hospitals, biotechnology spin-off companies and pharmaceutical firms in the same geographical area to promote rapid development and better information-sharing, and generate billions in annual turnover.

Lack of interest?
Current constraints preventing the UK from generating its own Biomedical Clusters to rival those of Boston, California, Beijing and Shanghai include a lack of investment from the Treasury, and poor existing conditions for innovation in Europe, he said.

This is causing pharmaceutical companies to focus R&D activity on the US and China because of the crucial global competitiveness of those countries. “Unless our government begins to adopt industrial and healthcare policies which assist our organisations in competing with these countries, we will make no further progress in this area”, stressed Professor Smith.

Professor Smith’s remarks at the event were in the wider context of how health reform in the UK should aim to deliver more for less. Additional options he discussed included recruiting more patients to clinical trials, as this would not only significantly increase patient satisfaction, but also reduce the national drug bill. By Nick Mason