Life Sciences Blueprint to act as catalyst for innovation in UK


The UK government\'s plan to allow certain drugs to be made available to patients for a limited period of time through an "Innovation Pass" has been welcomed by the life sciences sector.

The UK government's plan to allow certain drugs to be made available to patients for a limited period of time through an "Innovation Pass" has been welcomed by the life sciences sector.

The three-year Pass scheme, which has been allocated a budget of £25m for 2010/2011, will benefit small patient groups, such as those suffering from late-stage cancer, as they could have access to a new drug without having to wait for it to go through the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) appraisal process.

The Pass is part of a package of measures announced by science and health ministers Paul Drayson and Ara Darzi under the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) Blueprint. The measures are subject to consultation until November 2009.

Other initiatives aimed at stimulating the life sciences sector include setting up a Strategic Health Authority Delivery Group to improve uptake of innovative medicines and technologies, and engagement between industry and the NHS; placing greater emphasis on research in clinical trials in the next NHS Operating Framework; and further investigation by HM Treasury into a "patent box" tax incentive offering a lower rate of tax on profits derived from patents located in the UK to encourage the creation and exploitation of intellectual property in the UK.

In addition, the NHS chief executive will review payment by results to accelerate the uptake of medical technologies.

Lord Drayson said: "The UK life sciences have everything going for them: world-class facilities, talented scientists and entrepreneurial flair. By championing innovation, the NHS can support the life sciences industry in developing ways to improve people's health."

Life sciences trade organisations particularly noted the launch by the Technology Strategy Board of an £18m regenerative medicine programme of investment to support commercial r&d, with additional funding of £3.5m from research councils.

Richard Barker, director general of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said the plans would "deliver a truly transformational change for the life sciences industry in the UK."

In June, the government launched the UK Innovation Investment Fund, which it hopes will raise up to £1bn over the next decade to invest in technology and life science businesses.

The government, through UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), will also invest an extra £1m to promote the UK and the NHS at life sciences events at home and abroad.

Drugmaker Pfizer said if implemented in full the measures would "materially improve the UK environment for the life sciences sector, support the NHS in its drive for innovation and deliver a higher standard of care for UK patients".

Andrew Witty, ceo of GSK, said the OLS Blueprint has the potential to "transform the environment for life sciences and positively change how GSK and others in the sector invest in the UK".

Sign up for your free email newsletter

"Delivery of the "patent box", the evolution of NICE and the NHS as catalysts for innovation and the development of world-class life science clusters will be critical to the Blueprint's success," he added.