The Prime Minister’s speech signposts a global role for Britain in the fight against chronic disease
The Prime Minister’s speech this afternoon announcing a Strategy for UK Life Sciences is an important step in defining a new role for Britain in the global fight against disease.
Bringing together business, researchers, clinicians and patients to translate discovery into clinical use for medical innovation within the NHS, the policy aims to radically empower patients, giving them earlier access to innovative treatments and the opportunity to take part in clinical trials.
The announcements in the Prime Minister’s Speech today can do for UK Life Sciences what John F Kennedy’s Apollo Mission did for the US’s leadership in aeronautics and aviation technology. The world is facing an epidemic of disease and the race is on to shift from treating the symptoms of late stage disease to developing the earlier diagnosis and preventative treatments. Achieving this will require a joint effort and unlock huge benefits for our Universities, Scientists, NHS Clinicians, Industry and Patients.
By unlocking the full value of the NHS in accelerating the discovery of new medicines we can deliver huge benefits for all NHS patients. This ‘translational medicine’ approach of using large-scale, consented, and anonymised data, and allowing more patients to take part in clinical trials, is already being pioneered in the UK, particularly in cancer and dementia research. In the UK one in every six cancer patients is involved in research, representing 42,000 cancer patients per year, the highest level in the world. Three quarters of these cancer patients (over 30,000 per year) are also enrolled into a Cancer Research UK funded trial. At the other end of the scale, nowhere is the need to use diagnostics data as the basis for therapeutic discovery and development more important than in the field of Dementia research, one of our biggest disease time-bombs. The South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Kings College London have launched a groundbreaking project allowing for the secure and anonymised use of 180,000 individual patient data records which is leading to more accurate and earlier diagnosis. Two out of three of us will suffer from Dementia at some stage of our lives. We can't afford to leave important information in files with their medical value unexploited. By combining information, MRI scans, drug treatment and response, we can start to unlock new treatments.
Today we are sending a message around the world that the UK intends to be the best place to come and research the preventative medicines of tomorrow.
Background: George Freeman was elected MP for Mid Norfolk in 2010 after a 15 year career in start-up venture capital in the technology sector. He is the PPS to the Minister of State for Climate Change and Chairman for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Science, Technology and Agriculture. He was appointed as an Adviser to the Government on Life Sciences in July.