Pharma R&D: How the Medicines Discovery Catapult and BIA's State of the Drug Discovery Nation 2018 report will make a real difference

01 February 2018


The situation in the world of global pharma R&D is complex. Around the world healthcare systems are reducing their budgets but at the same time people are living longer, often with long term conditions.  R&D remains the life-blood of the industry but the pressure on the system is intense. Drug discovery is key but the competition is increasingly fierce, innovation is extremely costly and new products take years to come to fruition. The industry requires a coordinated response and some deep rooted thinking.

For these reasons I was thrilled to read the recently published report, State of the Drug Discovery Nation 2018, drafted jointly by the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association.  The report confirms that we continue to have world class science, technology and national health assets in the UK and the future for the industry is bright. But the report doesn’t hold its punches and clearly lays out the competitive pressures we are seeing globally and proposes solutions as to how the industry might tackle them. image from
Based on detailed conversations with key players within the UK’s small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s), the report reveals the industry’s perceptions of these global issues and identifies improvements in technologies and processes falling into five key strategic areas:

  • the need to catalyse disease syndicates providing new models of collaborative research;
  • the need for novel informatics platforms;
  • the requirement to improve sample and data access for all translational science by streamlining access to the existing and new assets within the UK;
  • the development of a national virtual medicines R&D ecosystem; and
  • the need to develop and prove technologies that “humanise” discovery.  

This last area is particularly exciting for all of us working in the sector - by developing new tools and techniques, such as new cell testing systems to screen drug candidates in complex predictive models for toxicology and efficacy, we can improve research productivity and reduce pipeline attrition.  The report’s findings and recommendations are key as we move forward to implementation of a UK Industrial Strategy. There can be no doubt that the UK is a world leader in the development of new and innovative products and we need to ensure that, post Brexit, it can remain that way. Through harnessing the combined power of our SMEs, the charitable sector and the more traditional companies we can maximise the opportunity. At the core of that opportunity is technology, talent and the UK healthcare system and the focus must remain getting life saving technologies and therapies to the patient as fast as possible.

Jo Pisani | Pharmaceutical and Life Science Consulting Leader
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