Report calls for urgent action on R&D model

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“Urgent action” is required to boost the productivity of the UK’s R&D model, which is grappling with “unprecedented pressure”, claims a new report by Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association.

The State of the Discovery Nation 2018 report is based on surveys and over 100 in-depth interviews with senior executives of UK drug discovery companies, and marks the first of its kind following the launch of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy in November.

It highlights that the number of drugs launched per $1 billion of R&D spend has dropped nearly thirtyfold over the last 40 years while, in the UK, the ageing population and rising prevalence of long-term illness mean that the financial burden of disease is now outpacing GDP.

This underscores the need to greater cost efficiencies within the medicines R&D model, and it also need to be “radically reshaped to meet patient needs”, according to the report.

It also argues that the continued reliance on inadequate models for human diseases as a key stumbling block to productivity as well as the lack of “straightforward, well-governed access to consented patient data and human tissue samples” which is a particular issue for SMEs.

Another issue emphasized is the degree to which the R&D community is fragmented within life sciences in the country, and the importance of collaboration between all stakeholders for successful medicines development.

The report suggests that the creation of “more agile” routes to facilitate collaboration between small companies to work together easily, and says multi-party approaches to increasing access to stratified human trials and addressing the skills gap are also key.

“In a globally competitive environment, we must now pull together nationally to support the innovators and build the best ecosystem for medicines discovery in the world,” said Chris Molloy, chief executive of the Medicines Discovery Catapult.

“It’s our mission, along with our sister Catapult in Cell & Gene Therapy, to help make this happen, which is why we’ve harnessed the intelligence of the community in this report, and have clear actions underway to catalyse positive change.”

“Innovation drives medicines development, and SMEs are at the heart of this, thanks to their agility and outlook. However, SMEs fit into a complicated landscape and need help to navigate it,” added BIA chief executive Steve Bates.

“Issues such as access to high quality Intellectual Property, support structures, stratified trials, funding and skills require a systemic approach and can’t be fixed by any one organisation working alone.”

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