Chris MasonProf. Chris Mason of University College London, Chair of the BIA Cell Therapy & Regenerative Medicine Advisory Committee, writes in response to the  House of Lords Science & Technology Committee’s report on Regenerative Medicine, which was warmly welcomed by the BIA.

The cell therapy industry had global sales of well over £1 billion in 2012 and this is predicted to double by 2014, with even greater growth expected to follow. The majority of this commercial activity has been in the USA, however Asia is fast catching up.

The UK is a world-leader in stem cell and regenerative medicine research and with our first rate clinical translation and commercialisation assets, including the National Health Service (NHS) and the City, the establishment of a globally competitive regenerative medicine and cell therapy industry in the UK should be a given. Unfortunately it is not. Just having all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in a box does not result in their spontaneous assembly into a completed picture. Hence the need for a co-ordinated and joined-up approach to creating an environment where cell therapy can flourish commercially for the benefit of NHS patients, business and UK plc, plus academia through virtuous circle reinvestment.

The House of Lords Science & Technology Committee report has thoroughly and systematically reviewed each step in the critical pathway following the laboratory discovery to final uptake as regulatory-approved, reimbursed therapy in routine clinical practice. Having rigorously collected the data from representatives of all the stakeholder groups in the UK and the USA, wide-reaching recommendations have been made which, if robustly backed by government, will make the UK a world leader in cell therapy clinical translation and commercialisation.

Last week, we all cheered when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced during the government’s spending review for 2015/16 the commitment to £185 million of additional funding for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to support innovation, including Catapult Centres and the Biomedical Catalyst. Some of this additional funding will undoubtedly go into the advancement of regenerative medicines and cell therapies.

However, funding alone will not build a sustainable UK cell therapy industry. Just as importantly, we need to fine-tune, leverage and integrate our world-class assets including the Cell Therapy Catapult, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), NHS, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and TSB.

The House of Lords Committee’s comprehensive vision for achieving the stream-lining of regulation, innovative funding mechanisms, market pull by the NHS and appropriate reimbursement will give regenerative medicine and cell therapy companies in the UK a much needed boost, attract inward investment, and create a globally competitive UK cell therapy industry.

However, this will need government departments, especially HM Treasury and the Departments of Health and Business, Innovation and Skills, to want to work together towards a shared vision; that a successful UK cell therapy industry will deliver jobs, create wealth, enable inward investment, contribute to reducing healthcare costs and most importantly transform patients’ lives. Because of the wide range of unmet and poorly-served medical conditions that cell therapies may be able to impact, there is not a single person who would not directly benefit as a patient, carer or worker in the regenerative medicine and cell therapy industry and its support sector.

The Chancellor in his 2011 budget speech ended with the rallying call, “We want the words: ‘Made in Britain’, ‘Created in Britain’, ‘Designed in Britain’, ‘Invented in Britain’ to drive our nation forward. A Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers. That is how we will create jobs and support families.” The recommendations in this House of Lords report are the urgent call to action needed to make Britain the permanent home to a prosperous multibillion pound cell therapy industry – either we all buy in or we all miss out, the choice is now and the choice is ours.