05/12/2011 10:14 GMT

David Cameron On Life Sciences (FULL SPEECH)

I’m here today because life science – and the UK’s role in it – is at a crossroads.

Behind us lies a great history.

Watson and Crick unravelling DNA, genetic finger-printing…

…the first CT scan, the first beta blocker, the first test-tube baby…

…34 Nobel Prizes in medicine, countless lives changed and saved.

We can be proud of our past – but we cannot be complacent about our future.

The industry is changing; not just year by year, but month by month.

There’s the pressure on healthcare budgets in the West…

…and our ageing populations…

…while we have emerging economies in the East…

…and an explosion of knowledge.

All these things together create a new paradigm for life sciences.

And in this new paradigm, we must ensure that the UK stays ahead.

Because, yes, we’ve got a leading science base.

Yes, we’ve got four of the world’s top ten universities.

And yes, we have a National Health Service unlike any other.

But my argument today is that these strengths alone are not enough…

…that to keep pace with what’s happening we’ve got to change radically...

…the way we innovate, the way we collaborate, the way we open up the NHS.

The two reports we’re publishing today are testament to our ambition…

…not just to hang on in there with a significant foot-hold in the global market…

…but to take an even bigger share of that market in the years to come.

So here I want to set out my view of how the industry is changing – and explain how we are responding.


First, let me be clear about why this is so important, to me and to this country.

Life sciences is a jewel in the crown of our economy.

It has consistently shown stronger growth than the UK as a whole…

…it accounts for 165,000 UK jobs…

…and it totals over £50 billion in turnover.

But the importance of life sciences isn’t just about its size, it’s about its nature.

This government has set a clear goal to rebalance our economy…

…yes, less borrowing and less debt – but as important: more investment, more exports, more designing things, making new products and selling them to the world.

Innovation is the beating heart of that vision – and in this we are fortunate, because Britain has a genius for it.

Just this year there have been some incredible breakthroughs.

At University College London they discovered a protein that helps heart tissue repair itself.

At Glasgow and Southampton they developed a new way of culturing adult stem cells, paving new ground for the treatment of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

At Touch Bionics in Edinburgh they’ve unveiled the world’s most life-like prosthetic hand.

Invention is one of the things we do really well in the UK – and the appetite for that is soaring.

Global pharmaceutical sales are predicted to grow by up to 6 per cent in the coming years.

In emerging economies, medical technology is achieving growth rates of over 12 per cent.

So if we’re going to build a more outward-looking, export-driven economy, then life sciences has got to play a big part in that.


But this isn’t just a calculation about what’s best for our economy.

It’s also about what’s best for humanity.

Earlier this year I was visiting a health clinic in Lagos.

There were rows and rows of mothers, sitting with their babies, waiting for their Measles jabs and Tetanus jabs.

The nurse told me that many of those babies would be dead without those injections…

…injections that cost less than £1.

Gandhi talked about the danger of science without humanity…

…but science with humanity can be just about the most powerful force for good on earth.

And we’ve got to keep pushing for progress.

Yes, we’ve defeated some of the big killers of the past.

But as old frontiers are conquered, new ones appear…

…lifestyle epidemics like obesity…

…diseases like dementia and diabetes.

There are huge areas of unmet need and we’re relying on your industry to come up with new answers.


This is why life sciences is so important…

…the virtuous circle of health, wealth and well-being.

But just because progress has been remarkable, that doesn’t make it inevitable.

As I see it, there are three big, inter-linking pressures on life sciences today.

First, the pressure on healthcare budgets in the West.

Governments and health systems are looking hard for savings – and often, the newest innovations are the lowest hanging fruit.

Second, there is the pressure of the so-called patent cliff.

Last year the heart drug Lipitor made almost $11 billion in sales…

…next year it comes off-patent…

…and soon after there are bound to be several cheaper generic versions.

That might be good for those buying the drugs; it doesn’t help you fund the next generation of drugs.

Third, and most importantly, there’s the pressure that new biological insights are having on your business model.

The human genome took thirteen years to decode and cost almost three billion dollars.

Today, a person’s genetic code can be decoded in a few weeks for just a few thousand dollars.

As the CEO of Eli Lilly has said, for decades discovery was like “feeling your way around a dark room and trying to make sense of what’s what. Suddenly the lights are on and we can see…”

This explosion of information means drugs and diagnostics that can be more tailored than ever before.

It could be that in just ten or fifteen years, the idea of treating disease without reference to the patient’s genetic blueprint is simply unthinkable.


Together these pressures have changed the game.

The old big pharma model is in flux.

When it can cost $1billion to develop a new drug…

…when it might only apply to a sliver of the population…

…and when there’s a good chance it will fall at the last hurdle…

…then having thousands of highly-paid researchers working on blockbuster drug after blockbuster drug just doesn’t make sense the way it used to.

We felt the fall-out of that with the difficult decisions made by Pfizer at Sandwich and Astra Zeneca at Charnwood.

But in place of the old big pharma model, a new one is emerging.

It’s about more collaboration, more out-sourcing, more early trials.

We see it in the way GlaxoSmithKline, Astra Zeneca and Manchester University have teamed up on inflammation research…

…pooling money and scientists in a move that could change millions of lives.

We see it in the partnership between UCL and Yale University, working across the Atlantic to develop new cardio devices.

We see it at Imanova – the Medical Research Council teaming up with London universities to break new ground in imaging, with a world-leading imaging centre at Hammersmith hospital.

Call it translational medicine, call it experimental medicine…

…we see it, we recognise it, and we are determined to support it…

…to invest in innovation…

...to stoke early-stage investment…

…and to tear down the barriers to development.

Above all, it is becoming ever more essential to get your products tested and adopted in the NHS much more quickly.

We asked what you needed. We've listened. And now we will deliver.

Now let me give you some of the detail.


First, innovation.

We’ve still got scientists who could be joining forces but aren’t...

…industry and clinicians who should be working together but don’t.

We are determined to change this.

So we have made the decision, even in these difficult times, not only to protect the science budget…

…but also to announce an extra £495 million capital funding for science this year.

We are creating a string of new Technology and Innovation centres…

…with a high value manufacturing centre already up and running and a cell therapy centre to open next year.

We’re investing £800million in Biomedical Research Centres...

…home to ground-breaking collaborations, like the one between Pfizer and Moorfields Eye Hospital to find a cure for macular degeneration.

And we are putting huge efforts into strengthening Academic Health and Science Centres.

These are right in the vanguard of what’s happening in translational medicine – a template for the world to follow.

Just today the three London centres – Imperial, Kings Health Partners and UCL Partners – announce a new deal to share patient data…

…giving you huge potential for clinical research on specific diseases – and underlining just how serious we are about catering to what patients and industry want.


Next, we are pulling every lever possible to make the UK a much more attractive place to invest.

From April 2013, a new Patent Box will offer a 10 per cent tax rate on patent profits.

GlaxoSmithKlein and Astra Zeneca have already committed to new investment as a result, and over the coming months, we want to see more follow suit.

Add to this our corporation tax rates – on course to be the lowest in the G7…

…and our generous tax credits for R&D…

…and you have a compelling case for investing in research here.

And as you look to work more and more with smaller companies, it’s crucial we do more to funding gap many face – the so-called ‘valley of death’.

So we’ve got a whole package of measures to bridge that gap.

Tax relief on angel investment – up from 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

The amount that can be invested in a single company in a year – up from £2million to £10 million.

Together these mean that if you build a business worth up to £25m and then sell it, you’re going to be better off in the UK than the US.

And last week, we went even further.

The Chancellor announced a new 50 per cent tax break for the first £100,000 invested in a start-up.

Plus, as a special offer for 2012, if you sell assets in that tax year and invest the proceeds in this seed scheme, you will not pay a penny of Capital Gains Tax on the assets you’ve sold.

For life science start-ups in particular, we’re doing something more.

Today we announce a £180 million Catalyst Fund, targeted at new British ideas.

It’s got a simple and explicit aim: getting the best ideas through the proof-of-concept stage so we can get them into clinical development and get our entrepreneurs selling them around the world.


And for many of you here today, the biggest hurdles are, of course, regulation and procurement.

It can take twenty years from the discovery of a drug to getting it to market.

This is hurting everyone: industry, taxpayers, above all patients.

The worst of it is this is so unnecessary.

The legislation is there in Europe to fast-track life-saving drugs – it’s just woefully underused.

Over ten years, it’s been used to fast-track just 17 new drugs.

That’s why we’re consulting on a new ‘early access scheme’ so that if patients are suffering in the advanced stage of a disease…

…and if there are no other treatments are available…

…they are able to access innovative medicines much earlier in their development.

As long as the drug qualifies for the scheme, it should be up to patients and doctors to decide whether they want to use it.

This could mean brand-new discoveries, fresh from the lab, being administered to patients here before anywhere else in the world.


But the most crucial, fundamental thing we’re doing is opening up the NHS to new ideas.

Time and again we’ve heard the same thing from industry:

‘We’ve got the treatments that work, we’ve proved their safe, they’ve been approved but we cannot get them into the NHS…

…in fact we can’t even get to the negotiating table.’

There’s a finger-prick blood test that allows patients on anticoagulation therapy to self-monitor their blood clotting time.

It’s effective, convenient, and in the end, cheaper for the NHS.

But still, less than 2 per cent of the 1.25 million people in the UK on long-term anticoagulation therapy are self-monitoring.

This is happening with a whole host of drugs and treatments.

It is a massive missed opportunity - and in so many ways it’s out-of-kilter with the spirit of the NHS.

This is an organisation that has thrived through innovation…

…where the link between lung cancer and smoking was first made…

…the portable defibrillator was first used…

…the CT scanner first operated.

This is the best of the NHS – resourceful and creative…

…now we’ve got to take the best of the NHS to remedy the worst of it…

…where it’s bureaucratic and slow to take up new ideas.

That’s what David Nicholson’s report – published today – is all about.

If NICE have approved a drug, we want to see that drug used consistently across the country.

If new technologies are being used in one area, we want to see others following suit.

The end-game is for the NHS to be working hand-in-glove with you…

…as the fastest adopter of new ideas in the world…

…acting as a huge magnet to pull new innovations through, right along the food-chain – from the labs to the boardrooms to the hospital bed.

Just look at our approach to tele-health – getting new technology into patients’ homes so they can be monitored remotely.

We’ve trialled it, it’s been a huge success, and now we’re on a drive to roll this out nationwide.

The aim – to improve three million lives over the next five years.

This is going to make an extraordinary difference to people.

Diabetics taking their blood sugar levels at home – and having them checked by a nurse.

Heart disease patients having their blood pressure and pulse rate checked – without leaving their home.

Dignity, convenience and independence for millions of people.

And this is not just a good healthcare story.

It’s going to put us miles ahead of other countries commercially too…

…as part of our plan to make our NHS the driver of innovation in UK life sciences.


And there’s something else we’re doing: opening up the vast amounts of data generated in our health service.

From this month, huge amounts of new data are going to be released online…

…the real-world evidence that scientists have been crying out for…

…and we’re delivering it.

We’ve seen how powerful the release of data can be.

Thanks to the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, the Institute of Psychiatry now has access to a database covering a quarter of a million patients.

It’s got their brain scans, their medical records, their notes – a huge wealth of information, all consented to, all anonymised – that’s helping them find new answers in the fight against dementia.

It is simply a waste to have a health system like the NHS and not do this kind of thing.

So we don’t want to stop there.

We’re going to consult on actually changing the NHS constitution, so that the default is for patients’ data to be used for research – unless of course they want to opt out.

The end result would be that every willing patient is a research patient…

…that every time you use the NHS you’re playing a part in the fight against disease, at home and around the world.

Again, this shows that we have listened – and we are acting.

I know you’ve heard promises like this before.

That’s why I have asked Sir John Bell and Chris Brinsmead – two experts in this field – to report back to me every six months on how we’re doing.

Believe me – we are determined to convert these words and policy papers into action.


So let me finish today by reiterating my key message to you.

We get that the game has changed – and we are changing with it.

We’re going to be more flexible, more competitive, more hungry for your business than ever before.

And don’t doubt our ambition.

Not just to stay in the game, but to lead the game.

Not just to hold on to the big companies we’ve got, but to see more new businesses setting up here.

Not just to rest on past glories, but to keep on striving for more breakthroughs.

I want the great discoveries of the next decade happening in British labs…

…the new technologies born in British start-ups…

…and proven in British hospitals…

…and in doing that I want to work with you.

My door – and the door to my team in Number 10 – is open.

Together we can work together for the good of the life sciences industry, for the good of the UK economy, and ultimately – for the good of the world.