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Willetts champions UK life sciences

Published on 25/06/14 at 10:48am
Science minister David Willetts image
UK science minister David Willetts

Science minister David Willetts has been banging the drum for UK life sciences at a major conference in the US, highlighting the UK government’s commitment to the sector.

Speaking in San Diego before this week’s BIO International Convention there, Willetts said: “We have smarter, better, faster experimental medicine and clinical trials working with government-funded expert networks and people supported by business processes to deliver on time and to target.”

He highlighted the attraction of a country whose health service provides a ready-made resource for all sorts of research to an audience of international pharma and biotech entrepreneurs.

“We are unlocking the big data of the NHS, plus heavy investment in research resources such as the UK Biobank and 100,000 genomes project,” he explained.

The pre-conference event was organised by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and concentrated on how government and industry must develop policies and business models to capitalise on changes in life sciences.  

Answering questions from Steve Bates, chief executive of the BioIndustry Association, Willetts pointed to the UK’s 78 Nobel prize winners in biomedical sciences and “game-changing contributions to life sciences in areas such as genomics, stem cells, antibodies, and imaging”.

He added: “We have over 450 Brits at this event with great stories to tell. With UK government support the UK is becoming an unrivalled ecosystem that brings together businesses, researchers, clinicians and patients to translate discovery into clinical use.”

Recent life sciences initiatives in the UK include MedCity, the new entity seeking to capitalise on the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of medical and life sciences R&D organisations between London, Oxford and Cambridge. 

The idea is to bring together parties that can help with the discovery and commercialisation of new drugs to tackle diseases such as dementia, diabetes and cancer, whilst also attracting major life science corporations to locate to the three cities and assist small companies to spin out of academia.

It is receiving more than £4 million in funding — £2.9 million from the Higher Education Funding Council and £1.2 million from London’s City Hall — to help promote it across the globe.

Adam Hill


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