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UK’s post-Brexit strategy looks to life sciences industry

Published on 30/08/17 at 08:27am

The UK Government had already announced, as part of its industrial plan, that the life sciences were regarded as a key part of British industry when looking towards a post-Brexit industrial future. Developing this further, a report has been delivered that aims to set out exactly how the industry can become a pillar of the UK economy.

John Bell, an immunologist and geneticist working at the University of Oxford, created the report that calls for further funding into the sciences whilst also encouraging making better use of patient data and greater incentives to encourage manufacturing in the UK.

The overall message of the report is to promote greater collaboration across sectors, including pharma and the NHS. Underpinning this idea is the proposal for the creation of a ‘Health Advanced Research Programme’ (Harp), that would link the life sciences and government. The body would be formed of public, charity and corporate companies that would aim to fund new research and larger projects with the aim of creating new industries.

The government has already committed £160 million to the area, with a major part of this going into a Vaccines Development and Manufacturing Centre, at a cost of £66 million. Bell is also calling for the creation of innovation hubs, similar to Silicon Valley and Boston in the US.

Bell is expected to say: “The vision for the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy is an ambitious one and sets out proposals for how the UK can continue to capitalise on its strengths in the sector, both to encourage economic growth and to improve health outcomes for patients. We have created a strategy which capitalises on our strong science base to further build the industry into a globally-unique and internationally competitive life sciences eco-system, supported by collaboration across industry, government, the NHS, academia, and research funders to deliver health and wealth.”

The response to the report is expected to be positive, with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt due to say: “The UK has always been at the forefront of scientific excellence. From the discovery of antibiotics to our world-leading 100,000 Genomes project, we have a proud history of medical breakthrough and innovation.”

It will be necessary to remain optimistic in the UK’s industries ability to rally, regardless of the situation left once the UK withdraws from the EU. It is of significant interest that the UK government has launched the life sciences’ report first, suggesting an awareness of the difficulties it might face attracting investment post-Brexit. It has already been hit with the staged withdrawal of the EMA headquarters, which will see it relocate to one of 19 applicant countries.

Ben Hargreaves

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