MPs highlight value of research-based pharma

 The medical and economic importance of the UK research-based pharmaceutical industry has been highlighted by a new parliamentary report.

Calling the industry “impressive”, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts (pictured) reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to supporting its growth.

ABPI Board member Nick Burgin called the Government policies to support joint working and the life science infrastructure “a positive step forward”.

The articles in the current issue of Science in Parliament (SIP), the journal of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, underlined the Government’s life science strategy and NHS innovation documents published in December.

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Committee, noted that the UK pharma industry consistently invests more in R&D than any other sector. However, he said, “growing competition from emerging economies is raising the bar ever higher and the UK needs to run faster just to stay still.”

The role of government in fostering and rewarding medical innovation was the theme of Willetts’ article, which drew attention to the changing needs of pharma R&D: in place of high-budget company research, he said, “a new model of collaboration, outsourcing of research and early clinical trials on patients is emerging.”

Willetts listed the Government measures announced in December to support medical innovation, including: the creation of new Biomedical Research Centres, a new national NIHR Bioresource, a new Cell Therapy Technology Innovation Centre and new Academic Health Science Networks; research into stratified medicine and disease mechanisms; a “catalyst fund” to support product development; and making NHS data available for “approved research”.

Nick Burgin said the joint working to produce the two December documents, in which the ABPI was strongly involved, “provides a successful blueprint and pathway for how the industry and the NHS can work together.”

He drew attention to the risk of the UK becoming “a mid- or late-tier launch market” for medical innovations, but concluded: “The launch of policy directed at placing innovation at the heart of the NHS represents a positive step forward for the NHS itself and also for industry and patients.”

At the parliamentary launch of the new issue of SIP, Stephen Whitehead, Chief Executive of the ABPI, said the research model of UK pharma is changing – from one of in-house discovery to one of collaborative working – but it is not declining: “This industry is not packing up and leaving the UK.”