For the final time this party conference season, senior individuals from the life sciences sector met to discuss the question: “Life sciences and the NHS: friends or foes?” at Conservative conference in Manchester on 2nd October.

John Glen, MP for Salisbury which includes the Public Health England Porton Down facility, joined representatives of industry, academia, learned societies and medical research charities to discuss issues of the uptake of innovation and funding for medical research and development amongst other issues. The BIA helped organise the event alongside the AMRC, ABHI, BIVDA and the ABPI.

Two case studies were provided to the group which spoke to different aspects of the NHS and life sciences relationship:

  • Professor Chris Bunch (Research Director, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research) and Barbara McLaughlan (Head of External Affairs, Novartis) presented their Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research’s Trials Acceleration Programme which seeks to better coordinate Phase I / II research in this therapeutic area.
  • Dan Beety, of Bayer, spoke about the uptake of novel anticoahulants. This case study highlighted the difficulty of uptake of innovative medicines sometimes faced by the producers of medicines, even when those products have a positive NICE approval and guidance.

While discussing many of the themes that emerged from these case studies around collaboration, coordination and a more enabling environment for the uptake of innovation, attendees also discussed the role of innovation and research within the NHS more broadly, including the Biomedical Catalyst fund and other possible funding models for innovation.

In particular, there were very interesting discussions regarding new approaches to risk sharing and the leveraging of investment into research activities between industry and the NHS. Attendees discussed what to do with Intellectual Property derived from NHS research for example and whether the Medical Research Council model of spin-out activities often a workable blueprint.

The three events at party conferences, all considering the same question, have led to some very interesting and diverse debates between policymakers and senior representatives from the sector. A core theme was clear though, the need to improve the uptake of innovation in the NHS and to simplify the process for research and development within the UK health system.