Progress on the Life Sciences Sector Deal 2

United Kingdom

The Office for Life Sciences has published its February edition of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy & Sector Deal Newsletter (the “Newsletter”). The Newsletter provides an update on how the strategy has progressed since phase 2of the Life Sciences Sector Deal (“Sector Deal 2”) was announced in December 2018. It also provides commentary and detail on the new NHS Long Term Plan (the “NHS Plan”) and the latest news on the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (“ISCF”).

Progress since implementation of Sector Deal 2

Data infrastructure and protection

The Government is acting on the commitments it made in the Sector Deal 2by supporting the health data infrastructure in the UK through investing in the NHS Digital’s core services. The Government has now committed £3m in funding to certain innovation projects in what is the first phase in delivering the Digital Innovation Hub Programme. Ten test companies will trial the technical capabilities that make up the Hub to ensure that they are functional and fit for purpose. The NHS, in partnership with other health and research bodies, also announced on 26 February that it was creating a non-profit association with the aim of boosting progress in medicine and health. This marks a step forward in the Government’s aims to improve data-driven life sciences innovation and research in the UK, for the benefit of patients and the NHS.

The Government also promised to secure the use of patient data by ensuring that the right framework is in place for commercial agreements involving data. No detail has been provided on this yet, but we will keep monitoring and updating this.

Better use of technology

The Government has announced that it will support and expand digitally enabled clinical research. This is now being pioneered in the industry in the UK. Digital technologies are also now being utilised in the ORION-4 trial research, a clinical trial testing whether a new medicine called inclisiran prevents heart attacks and strokes.

Progress has also been made in setting up five new technology centres that will utilise artificial intelligence to make advances in medical technology. The centres will utilise AI to try to discover new ways to speed up the diagnosis of illnesses and diseases for patients through more intelligent analysis of medical imaging. The hope is that this will lead to earlier clinical decisions for patients, meaning less treatment will be required, thereby saving hospital time later. Two programmes have also just been allocated government funding to develop digital-solutions, in particular AI, to make the production of future medicines more efficient. Companies in London, Oxford and Northumberland will roll this out.

NHS Long Term Plan

In January, the Department of Health and Social Care launched the NHS Long Term Plan (the “NHS Plan”). The NHS Plan aims to improve the quality of patient care and health outcomes. It explicitly supports the outcomes of the first and second Life Sciences Sector Deals (“the Deals”) and commits the NHS to supporting their delivery. Several of the core measures in the NHS Plan are closely linked to and complement provisions in the Sector Deal 2, such as the greater emphasis on genome projects to aid prevention of diseases. The NHS Plan promises to speed up the timeframe between the development of new technologies and when patients start to benefit from them, which will be welcomed by many businesses that develop these types of machines and devices. Businesses operating in the life science and healthcare industries may also benefit from new opportunities and markets provided by NHS plans to launch an app that will digitise health information and records.

Latest news on the ISCF

The ISCF is the Government’s long-term plan to raise productivity and earning power in the UK research market. It represents an integral part of the Government’s commitment to inject an additional £4.7 billion into research and development in the UK science industry over the next four years.

New ISCF policy invites UK businesses to apply for funding from a pot of £5m available to aid the development of new digital health products. The ISCF has also committed to providing £79m in funding for an Accelerated Detection of Disease challenge, in support of the Government’s focus on early diagnosis. This is complemented by the promise in the NHS Plan to offer whole genome sequencing to the seriously ill and those suffering from specified rare conditions.

Announcements

The Government has confirmed that, in the event of a “no-deal Brexit”, it will honour payments to UK businesses that were in receipt of EU Horizon 2020 research funding. In order to continue to benefit from the funding, businesses must register their eligible projects. The Government has expressed a commitment to exploring ways to stay associated with research and innovation programmes after the UK is no longer legally partnered with the other EU Member States.

Background

Sector Deal 2 was launched in December 2018 and represents the Government’s second instalment in its progression of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. Sector Deal 2 contains plans and policies that build on the actions and progress of the first phase of the Life Sciences Sector Deal, which was introduced in December 2017. Sector Deal 2 will further support healthcare innovation and back businesses to create high quality life science and healthcare jobs through investment of a further £1.2 billion in the industry. The details of Sector Deal 2 were previously noted in a CMS LawNow article here.

You can read the Office of Life Sciences’ full article on how the Strategy is progressing with the implementation of Sector Deal 2, as well as the upcoming priorities and engagement opportunities here.