The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has called for the establishment of a £1.5 billion ($2.8bn) fund to coordinate the UK government's subsidised research, of which £100 million would "help bridge the gap between basic and clinical science."

The announcement comes in response to the announcement earlier this year of the Cooksey Review into public funding of health research in the UK, chaired by Sir David Cooksey of Advent Ventures and charged with working out a strategy to implement the single fund for health research announced in the last government budget.

In a statement, Nigel Brooksby, the ABPI's president, said: "we need a system that acknowledges the strength of work done by the Medical Research Council as well as the progress being made with the National Health Service research and development strategy."

The ABPI's proposal supports the government’s view of a combined agency spanning the research functions of the MRC and NHS. It suggests creating a Health Research Board to oversee the total state budget for all health-related life sciences R&D, with funding of up to £1.5 billion.

Comments submitted by the Royal Society and Academy of Medical Sciences earlier in August pointed out that the UK has a great track record of achievements in basic biomedical science, but has not been so successful in translating these findings into the applied clinical research setting.

This view is also supported by the ABPI, which recommends the establishment of a translational medicine strategy board to "forge a more direct link between basic and clinical science." This could take some leaves out of the US Food and Drug Administration’s book, encouraging the creation of tools for general use in medical research, such as biomarkers and imaging facilities, as well as the expertise and facilities for Phase I clinical trials.

Other ABPI proposals for the Cooksey review include the creation of stronger incentives for collaboration between MRC-subsidised work and pharmaceutical manufacturers, "to ensure that commercial relevance can help guide biomedical research priorities.”

It also wants to maintain the bulk of basic biomedical research presently funded by the MRC at a level of around £500 million; disease-specific clinical trial networks with user-friendly and competitive features; and the creation of a health outcomes and behaviour research initiative to assess the impact of the new therapies and procedures.

”With R&D investment outside the US increasingly going to high-growth Asian and eastern European countries, the government must act to build on the UK's existing strengths in peer-reviewed, public-funded basic research," said Mr Brooksby.