New incentives for clinical trials are part of a package of measures needed to ensure that the environment for life sciences in the UK remains vital, productive and competitive, says the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

The call comes in Prescription for Innovation, a “roadmap for a healthy life sciences industry” launched by the ABPI this week with the support of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Imperial College London and the patients’ organisation National Voices.

The manifesto highlights a range of provisions the ABPI regards as critical to investment and innovation in medicines, such as improving the uptake of new drugs by the National Health Service; introducing revised tax regimens to support the generation, retention and exploitation of intellectual property; reviewing the official definition of medicines ‘value’ so that it aligns with the views of the public, patients and healthcare professionals; and creating a better environment to foster and reward innovation.

Under this last heading, the manifesto notes that the pharmaceutical industry is working with the NHS to combat a sharp fall in the number of clinical trials located in the UK. However, “evidence suggests further efforts by government and the NHS are needed”, it adds.

Among these are incentivising NHS Trusts to participate, and become competitive, in clinical trials by “making research part of doctors’ professional development and reward, and being transparent about their research units’ costs and performance”. The government also needs to eliminate excessive regulation by implementing urgently a single central approval process for clinical trials, the ABPI contends.

Related measures would be:

- Encouraging an ‘open innovation’ approach that removes barriers to partnerships between companies and public-sector researchers, “allowing the country’s foremost talent to collaborate, co-create and flourish”.

- Encouraging universities to provide “rigorous” bioscience degrees that would “nurture domestic talent and attract talent from other countries”.
- Addressing gaps in schools’ science education and develop a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) strategy for higher education.

Innovation is one of four “strategic imperatives” around which the ABPI is delivering proactive campaigns as part of a fundamental overhaul of its organisational structure and activities. The other three pillars of the VITA initiative, which also feed into the Prescription for Innovation manifesto to varying degrees, are Value, Trust and Access.