Life Sciences Council meeting hosted by chancellor Jeremy Hunt has unfolded in Downing Street

The ambitious life sciences plan laid down by the UK government is gaining some much-needed momentum. With a wide-ranging series of proposals to boost the clinical trials ecosystem, however, the key to the success of the plans will be an ability to overcome significant commercial challenges.

This week, the Life Sciences Council, comprising ministers and global life science industry leaders, convened to discuss how the UK can realise and sustain the economic potential of the sector. Critically, they also addressed recent declines in clinical trials performance and wider investment.

The Council meeting unfolded in Downing Street and was opened by chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Meanwhile, it was co-chaired by Chloe Smith – secretary of state for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology – and Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer at AstraZeneca.

Among topics for discussion were Dame Angela Maclean’s review of the life science regulatory system and Lord O’Shaughnessy’s Independent Review of Clinical Trials. In addition, the government announced a host of other measures aimed at encouraging industry investment, including a new investment in UK Biobank, a new bio-manufacturing fund, an apprenticeship manual and new health innovation networks.

Richard Torbett, chief executive, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), reflected: “The announcements show that the government recognises the huge opportunity waiting to be grasped if the UK can unlock the economic potential of its life science industry – already worth £94.2bn in 2021. These measures demonstrate the government has listened to industry and will help put the UK on track to meeting its life science vision.

He added: “Lord O’Shaughnessy is right that making the UK an attractive destination for industry clinical trials requires regulatory reform, speedier study set-up and approvals, and improved access to data. Implementing his proposals, alongside these other announcements, can be a springboard to delivering on the UK’s ambition to be a science superpower, and we now must press forward with delivery at pace.”

He concluded: “However, improving research is only one part of the equation. To get innovative medicines to patients and fully capture the growth opportunity, we must also fix the commercial environment, and for that, we also look forward to agreeing with government to a new and improved Voluntary Scheme as soon as possible.”