UK invests £650M in life sciences

UK government funding life sciences

A £650 million ($804 million) war-chest to boost the U.K.’s life sciences sector has been announced.

The ‘Life Sci for Growth’ package brings together 10 different policies including £121 million ($150 million) to improve commercial clinical trials to bring new medicines to patients faster, up to £48 million ($59.4 million) of new money for scientific innovation to prepare for any future health emergencies, £154 million ($190.5 million) to increase the capacity of the U.K.’s biological data bank further aiding scientific discoveries that help human health, and up to £250 million ($309 million) to incentivise pension schemes to invest in our most promising science and tech firms.

The ‘Life Sci for Growth’ package also includes plans to relaunch the Academic Health Science Network as Health Innovation Networks to boost innovation by bringing together the NHS, local communities, charities, academia and industry to share best practice. It also lays out changes to planning rules to free-up lab space.

The announcement was made just a week after the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) launch of a 10-year science strategy.

Life sciences is one of the U.K.’s most successful sectors, worth more than £94 billion ($116 billion) to the U.K. economy in 2021, a 9% increase on the year before. 

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “Our Life Sciences sector employs over 280,000 people, makes £94 billion for the UK each year and produced the world’s first covid vaccine. These are businesses that are growing our economy while having much wider benefits for our health – and this multi-million pound investment will help them go even further.”

Policy announcements

The announcements are intended to improve the regulatory environment for life sciences companies and the approach to U.K. commercial clinical trials. As part of this, the Chancellor has cut the regulatory burden of approving clinical trials, and committed £121 million, made up of new and existing funding, to speed up clinical trials and improve access to real-time data via new Clinical Trial Acceleration Networks. 

‘Life Sci For Growth’ commits to invest £154 million from UK Research and Innovation to upgrade the UK Biobank capabilities, the biomedical database containing the in-depth genetic information of half a million U.K. citizens. The money will go towards a new facility at Manchester Science Park, a new hub to help SMEs collaborate with industry and academia and better IT to accommodate multi-disciplinary data.

A call for proposals has been released on the government’s Long-Term Investment for Technology and Science (LIFTS) initiative, which will offer £250 million of government support to spur the creation of new vehicles for pension schemes to invest in the U.K.’s high-growth science and technology businesses.

Industry response to the ‘Life Sci for Growth’ package

Ludovic Black, partner at Mazars, said: “The Government has gone out of its way to highlight the importance of the life sciences sector to the U.K. economy recently. This was likely done to counteract the negativity of the competitiveness of the U.K., highlighted by AstraZeneca’s recent decision to invest $360 million in an Irish manufacturing facility, citing the U.K. tax system as one of the reasons for not locating this plant in the U.K.

“Big pharma was the key beneficiary of the autumn budget last year with the net RDEC increasing by 50% from 10.5p in the £1, to 15p in the £1. We also saw during and the Budget in March the R&D intensive rate of 27%, whilst not as strong as the old rate, was a welcome boost to those smaller life sciences companies who will not be hit as hard. The enhanced powers to the MHRA allowing it to quickly approve drugs which have already been approved in EU, U.S. and Japan was good news for those bringing new drugs to market.”

Michael Young, co-founder of Lindus Health, said: “This investment from the Government is most welcome. The U.K. should be a global life science superpower, discovering cutting-edge treatments that can save lives. But our country’s excellent R&D sector is being held back by an old-fashioned, analogue drug development industry that wouldn’t look out of place in the 1970s.

“Poor-quality data and a lack of investment in trial infrastructure means advances in treatments can take decades to actually reach patients. So it is also encouraging to see the Government respond to the call for better access to medical data.  To accelerate health innovation and make a real difference to patients – and ensure the U.K. is leading the pack globally, not lagging behind – the Government must continue its commitment to modernize the drug development process and bring it into the 21st century.”

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