AMRC_MartinTurner_12629-49Dr Martin Turner, Senior Policy Adviser at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), tells us about their work to promote collaboration between charities and industry, and how BIA members can get involved.

The UK’s medical research environment is evolving before our eyes. It’s now well-acknowledged that traditional approaches to drug development aren’t going to get us the life-saving new treatments we need in the 21st century. Innovative approaches are required, and it’s increasingly clear that collaboration is key.

Charities and biotechnology companies share a common purpose – to develop new treatments and get them to the patients that need them as quickly as possible. So they are natural partners.

Charities have unique insights into the needs of patients and a single-minded focus on investing their money to improve care. And more than ever they are looking to invest that money in smart new ways and to take a more hands-on approach to getting new treatments from bench to bedside.

By partnering with biotechnology companies, charities gain valuable expertise in drug development and the regulatory requirements for bringing new treatments to market. In turn, the company benefits from the charity’s unique relationship with patients, access to the fruits of basic research and, in some cases, direct financial investment from the charity.

Some of our members have been doing this for many years already whereas others are interacting with the private sector for the first time. But what we are certainly seeing is that charities are becoming more entrepreneurial.

At AMRC we are working to support our members who want to take this collaborative approach. We have established an Industry-Charity Advisory Group with representatives from our membership and industry (including BIA) to guide this work. In 2014 and ’15 will be delivering networking and training events, producing new support materials, and using what we learn to demonstrate the benefits of our collaborative approach to the government. The combined voice of charities and industry is hard to ignore!

Deborah O'Neil, NovaBiotics and Ed Owen, Cystic Fibrosis Trust at the AMRC/BIA lunch

Deborah O’Neil, NovaBiotics and Ed Owen, Cystic Fibrosis Trust at the AMRC/BIA networking lunch

We have already held a networking lunch in Parliament with BIA to showcase successful collaborations and provide opportunities for BIA and AMRC members to meet. There will be more of these types of events to come.

We are also re-writing our 2008 guide An essential partnership, to bring it up-to-date with new case studies, advice and support for charities looking to collaborate with companies. It covers everything from contracts to managing conflicts of interest.

To help us develop these support materials for our members, it’s important that we know about the needs of the industry partners too. BIA members can help us by answering our short online survey about how you collaborate with charities or how you would like to. By getting involved you will be helping to make sure both charities and their industry partners get the most out of future collaborations.

The UK is blessed with a dynamic and diverse medical research community made up of public, private and charity research funders. There are very few countries in the world that are so lucky. It’s vital that we harness our combined expertise and work together to drive forward medical innovation to benefit patients and the UK economy.