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UK report plans boost for life sciences as Brexit looms
August 29, 2017 / 11:04 PM / 25 days ago

UK report plans boost for life sciences as Brexit looms

FILE PHOTO: A scientist prepares protein samples for analysis in a lab at the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, Britain, July 15, 2013. Stefan Wermuth/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government has rekindled its industrial strategy, unveiled earlier this year to prepare the economy for Brexit, with plans to boost the country’s pharmaceuticals sector via fresh investments and public-private collaborations.

A government-commissioned sector report by immunologist and geneticist John Bell called on Wednesday for more funding of basic science, new incentives for manufacturing, and increased cooperation between drugmakers and the National Health Service (NHS).

Bell also advocates creating a Health Advanced Research Programme to lead ambitious and long-term projects focused on cutting-edge technologies, such as using artificial intelligence in healthcare or understanding the biology of ageing.

He laid out several bold targets, such as creating four UK life sciences companies valued at more than 20 billion pounds ($26 billion) within the next 10 years, attracting 2,000 new discovery scientists from around the world, and achieving a 50 percent increase in the number of clinical trials.

Bell’s review, which was welcomed by business minister Greg Clark and health minister Jeremy Hunt, will be followed by a ‘sector deal’ from the government in the coming months, acting on his recommendations with concrete commitments.

The 64 billion pounds a year life sciences industry, which employs 235,000 people, is one of several sectors the government has prioritized, along with ultra-low emission vehicles, nuclear and creative industries.

It is the first to see the launch of a sector report under the industrial strategy.

GlaxoSmithKline, Britain’s largest life sciences company, said a stronger and deeper level of collaboration between industry, government, the NHS and academia would make Britain a more attractive place for drugmakers.

While Britain is today a leading center for drug discovery, its future success is clouded by the country’s decision to leave the European Union, and pharmaceutical companies have called for a careful and phased transition to avoid disruption.

AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said Bell’s strategy should “provide a more predictable environment for future investment decisions and ensure the UK remains open for innovation as it prepares to exit the EU”.

Coinciding with the report, health minister Hunt also announced 14 million pounds of new funding to support 11 medical technology research centers to encourage collaboration between the NHS and industry.

Prime Minister Theresa May first announced her “Modern Industrial Strategy” in January with the aim of boosting Britain’s weak productivity growth and spurring investment in technology and research and development.

($1 = 0.7742 pounds)

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter

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