Wednesday, May 14, 2014
The erosion of our UK industrial science base - think creatively Pfizer. Where will new medicines come from?
1. This country needs a strong industrial science base to ensure the future translation of our medicines. 2. Our medicines are built on innovation – so let’s be creative in this situation: a. What is really important in this debate is to secure the best future for the pharmaceutical industry, economy of the UK, the next generation of scientists and the next generation of innovative medicines and therapies. The solution doesn’t have to be exclusive of any aspect but it does have to be different. 3. Companies will always find ways to grow financially but the future business of the pharmaceutical industry depends on a good supply of new medicines, which with a 20+ year product research and development cycle requires continuous investment in a strong science base. The larger the corporate giants become the more prolific their product pipelines have to be – but they can’t innovate and deliver these alone and they source the new products from academia and small creative biotechnology companies, often set up around highly specialised technologies. 4. The UK has a great science base and strong track record of delivery. This is because of our pharmaceutical industry and significant attention and investment from successive governments, our universities, large research charities and research foundations - we contribute daily to the breakthroughs in medicine and the life sciences. 5. Successive consolidation of the past 15 years in our industry, which leads to R&D site closure means this current generation of young post-doctoral scientists does not have the opportunities the current leaders of translation research in the UK had – the current CEOs of the biotechnology companies. We had the pick of 6-7 top R&D sites in the UK (Glaxo, Wellcome, SKB and many more) each of which provided us with superb jobs and great training and development. 6. The current leaders are trained to go on to lead teams in academia or industry and contribute fully to translation of early discoveries into new medicines. Those of us leading biotech companies would love to pass this training and experience on to others. What we need innovative schemes to fund this next generation in the right environment. 7. I am pleased and sincerely hope that Pfizer honour their commitment to the Cambridge R&D investment that AZ have planned, but that is not sufficient. For all the reasons I have stated I ask them to think differently. a. Provide funds and fellowships for the next generation of scientists that can be used within our academic and biotech sector.. b. Translational research is a different language and training – you could support 100 post-docs each year for 20 years for translational training fellowships in biotechnology companies and allow us to train the next generation – that would be a relatively small financial investment in the UK which would make a huge difference. c. Let the leaders of today train the leaders of tomorrow. d. A Centre for Therapeutic Innovation has been an idea that has been toyed with but not committed to – don’t try to control it because innovation cannot be ‘managed into happening’ in the sense understood by large corporations – but do allow it to happen by making the investment.