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UK parliament committee seeks to help shape new life sciences strategy

Out-Law News | 01 Aug 2017 | 5:27 pm | 2 min. read

A new parliamentary inquiry is to look at what steps need to be taken to encourage more investment in life sciences research in the UK.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said its inquiry will look to influence the contents of a new life sciences strategy, which is being developed under one strand of the UK government's broader industrial strategy.

The inquiry will also look at the role public procurement can play in promoting innovation in the UK's life sciences sector, whether the support structures for life sciences within the government are sufficient, and what risks and opportunities the sector faces as a consequence of Brexit.

The Committee has invited written evidence to be submitted to help inform its inquiry up until Friday 15 September.

Lord Patel, chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said: "According to one analysis, the UK life sciences sector contributed £30.7bn to the economy in 2015 and supports over 480,000 jobs. While it is high-tech, research-intensive and innovative it can only remain this way if it has the correct leadership and is properly funded. Furthermore, compared to other countries the UK is behind when it comes to investment and innovation."

"The inquiry is an opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of the government’s 2011 life sciences strategy, in order to properly inform its new strategy. This is expected to be published during the period in which this call for evidence is open and the Committee welcome the views of respondents on its contents, as well as the sector as a whole," he said.

Life sciences expert Adrian Murray of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "The announcement regarding the parliamentary inquiry is encouraging as it underlines the government’s continued commitment to the life sciences sector, despite the distractions of the Brexit and the seemingly inevitable loss of the European Medicines Agency from London."

Alongside its industrial strategy published in January, the UK government pledged "to make the UK the best place in the world to invest in life sciences". It announced a separate life sciences strategy would be developed to achieve that objective.

The development of a new UK life sciences strategy was recommended by a UK EU life sciences steering committee (21-page / 507KB PDF) last year. The committee was tasked with identifying the main issues facing the industry as the UK moves towards Brexit in light of the outcome to the UK's EU membership referendum last June.

At the time, life sciences expert Helen Cline of Pinsent Masons said a new strategy would provide "an opportunity for the UK to road-test innovative approaches to regulation, building on recommendations made in reports such as the recent Accelerated Access Review". She said it could help secure the UK’s future as "an early launch market for new medical innovations".

In its call for evidence (5-page / 81KB PDF), the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said: "As part of its wider work on an industrial strategy the government has asked Sir John Bell to carry out work on a life sciences strategy and a ‘sector deal’ for life sciences. The industrial strategy green paper states that Sir John will lead work on a 'new strategy to make the UK the best place in the world to invest in life sciences'. It is unclear how the relative attractiveness of the UK to life science investors will be assessed."

"The Committee is launching this inquiry now to contribute to the discussion around the strategy and the role of the government and business in its development and implementation," it said.