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The State of the Drug Discovery Nation Unveiled as New Report Provides Vital Insights for the Development of New Medicines

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A new joint report ‘State of the Discovery Nation 2018’, by the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association, launched by Sir Mark Walport on Thursday 18 January 2018, provides unique insights into the productivity of the UK’s drug discovery community and the challenges and opportunities it faces. The first sector survey of its kind following the launch of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy in November, and focused on the SME community, shows the UK has great strengths in its scientific foundations. However, at a time of unprecedented industry change, urgent action is needed to make the R&D model more productive.

With the financial burden of disease rising faster than GDP due to an ageing population and the rise of chronic diseases, there is an urgent need for more cost-effective medicine development. Despite this, around 40% of new drugs fail when they are first trialled in a patient and the majority fail at other stages of development. As a result, the number of drugs launched per $1billion of R&D spend has fallen nearly thirtyfold over the last 40 years.

This new report, based on surveys and over 100 in-depth interviews with senior executives of UK drug discovery companies, shows that global R&D productivity is under unprecedented pressure. In response to this, world leading opportunities exist for the UK to reshape the medicines discovery process to develop medicines greatly needed by patients. The report highlights that:

·          Global R&D productivity is under unprecedented pressure

·          The model of medicines R&D must be radically reshaped to meet patient needs

·          A key problem is reliance on using inadequate models for human diseases

·          Commercialising emerging technology will require new models of collaboration

·          Data science is now indispensable to medicines R&D: research data is now generated in such high volumes that the    ability to harness it has become a critical factor in developing new medicines

·          It is imperative for the UK to provide industry with straightforward, well-governed access to consented patient data and     human tissue samples – this is an acute problem for SMEs

The report also found that the UK’s R&D community is highly fragmented in life sciences. Universities, teaching hospitals, medical charities, large pharmaceuticals and SMEs each possess some of the capabilities and expertise required for drug development. Consequently, collaboration is essential to develop new medicines successfully.

As part of this report the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association are calling on the community to address additional cross-cutting themes that require multi-stakeholder solutions:

1.     Maximise the supply of investable intellectual property

2.     Create more agile routes to enable small companies to work together easily, leading to clinical trials

3.     Increase access to stratified human trials

4.     Address the skills gap

5.     Address the gap in follow-on funding

Chris Molloy, Chief Executive of the Medicines Discovery Catapult, says:

“The UK has a strong heritage in medicines R&D and a high-profile strategy for our industry. However, in a globally competitive environment, we must now pull together nationally to support the innovators and build the best ecosystem for medicines discovery in the world.  It’s our mission, along with our sister Catapult in Cell & Gene Therapy, to help make this happen, which is why we’ve harnessed the intelligence of the community in this report, and have clear actions underway to catalyse positive change.” 

Steve Bates OBE, Chief Executive Officer of the BioIndustry Association, says:

“Innovation drives medicines development, and SMEs are at the heart of this, thanks to their agility and outlook. However, SMEs fit into a complicated landscape and need help to navigate it. Issues such as access to high quality Intellectual Property, support structures, stratified trials, funding and skills require a systemic approach and can’t be fixed by any one organisation working alone. That’s why we, along with the Medicines Discovery Catapult, are committed to working with others to create long-term solutions to these issues, which will drive productivity and further success in the important years ahead.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester spoke at the launch event at the Medicines Discovery Catapult’s headquarters at Alderley Park, the Bio and Life Sciences Campus in Cheshire. 

“Medicines R&D is critical for the health of the UK. This report provides vital insights for the SME and academic communities for the development of new medicines at a time of fast scientific and industrial change. It also lays out the clear role of the Medicines Discovery Catapult. Its location in the northwest life sciences cluster will enable the UK community to access science and clinical expertise which can help the SME community to pioneer a new drug discovery process. Ultimately, this innovation will lead to medicines from the UK reaching patients faster, with lower risk of failure, maintaining our heritage position as one of the world’s best places for developing new targeted, high value medicines.”   

Aisling Burnand OBE, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Medical Research Charities added:

“The UK’s medical research charity sector plays a vital role in the UK’s R&D. We know first-hand that patients, their relatives, and carers have unique experience which is invaluable to this process. This important report is a step towards enabling patients and medical research charities to be involved at the heart of R&D. It gives a shared vision for a humanised future of drug discovery.”

For more information on the Medicines Discovery Catapult visit https://md.catapult.org.uk/

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