Time for change in the biomedical industry
Our recent event explored the challenges faced by the UK biomedical industry and how collaboration is key to its continued growth and success.
There was an unusually upbeat mood to the gathering of biomedical people at Nesta on Tuesday 15 March. I have been working on the report we launched for about a year now. In that time, I've tried to speak to a range of people across the biomedical sector: academic researchers, biotech companies, funders in charities and research councils, and pharmaceutical companies. All those I spoke to recognised that this is a time of change for the industry.
The time for change is now
We started this report because it's clear that all parts of the system will need to change the way they work to respond to this. Public budgets are being squeezed in both healthcare and universities. At the same time, an ageing population will increase demand for healthcare as the latest research equipment and healthcare treatments become more specialised and more expensive. Pharma has seen a decline in research productivity in recent years - it costs more and more to get a drug to launch, as the number of potential compounds falling at each trial stage increases. Little did we realise when we started that we would see four significant R&D site closures in just over a year, culminating in February with Pfizer's decision to close their Sandwich R&D site. Pharma is moving to a new model, which is playing out differently in different companies, but almost always involves less in-house R&D spending, more partnerships and collaborations, and higher expectations of their partners.
The All Together Now Report
We were pleased to have three really thoughtful speakers at the report launch. Each gave a different perspective on some of the challenges of collaboration. One of the issues is that collaboration is hard to define - there are many different models which make it work. This also makes it hard to put together good data on how much of it takes place. The new data we gathered for the report suggests that the UK does well internationally, but is static, and will need to work harder to maintain its current position.
The UK’s untapped potential
There was also a sense from the speakers and the audience of immense untapped potential in the UK: so many aspects of the UK system are unique or world-class. If we can make better use of some of the incredible assets we have, such as the power of the NHS, the fantastic community of medical charities and the world-leading research, there should be nothing to stop the UK leading the world in this new model of drug development.