UK initiatives to speed up delivery of medicines to patients

Will boost partnership between academics, clinicians and the life sciences

UK Science Minister David Willetts and Health Minister Lord Howe have launched an initiative to boost partnership between academics, clinicians and the life sciences industry to deliver medicines faster to UK patients and to secure the UK’s position as the global partner of choice for research and development collaboration.

The Therapeutic Capability Clusters programme will develop three-way partnerships between the life sciences industry, clinicians and academics.

Collaborations will involve the best researchers in the NHS and academia working with industry researchers on promising new drugs and interventions. Together they will develop the best approaches to run experimental medicine studies and find novel ways to treating or diagnosing a range of inflammatory diseases.

In the first phase of this programme, the first two clusters in inflammatory respiratory disease (such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)) and in joint and related inflammatory diseases (such as arthritis) have been established.

These clusters are said to be the first in the world to be established around specific therapy areas. The aim is to help ensure that experimental research is translated faster into treatments that make a difference to people’s lives.

By providing a single point of contact for industry engagement, patient access and intellectual excellence, these clusters will help to ensure the UK has the commercial and cultural environment to support strong collaboration and to maintain and grow world-class private sector r&d in the UK.

Willetts also announced plans by the Medical Research Council (MRC) to invest more than £10m in consortia in two disease areas, complementing the Therapeutic Capability Clusters programme.

The MRC/ABPI Inflammation and Immunology Initiative will bring together academics and industry at the early r&d stages to target the right treatments to the right people, enabling effective clinical trials as well as identifying novel biomarkers, mechanisms and targets.

‘These Therapeutic Capability Clusters are a world first and I am hugely excited by the potential they and the MRC/ABPI Inflammation and Immunology Initiative offer for UK r&d and our delivery of innovative medicines to patients faster in areas of unmet medical need,’ said Willetts.

Health Minister Lord Howe added: ‘By pulling advances in basic science through into new ways of diagnosing and treating joint and respiratory disease, these two clusters will make a difference to the lives of thousands of patients in the NHS.’

The announcement was made at the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) conference in London.