Strategy for UK Life Sciences
On the 5 December 2011 the Prime Minister launched a new Strategy for UK Life Sciences, which aims to continue the country’s record of world-leading innovation in life sciences. In the strategy, the Government describes how it aims to provide a better environment for life sciences, to improve the lives of patients and contribute to economic growth. The strategy highlights the important contribution NIHR research makes to innovation in life sciences, and sets out a number of key actions where NIHR is leading.
A summary of the investments and policies to support UK life sciences are described in Investing in UK Health and Life Sciences. The full range of policies and actions that support the Government’s strategy are described in detail within two documents:
A key overriding Government goal for the NHS is for every willing patient to be a research patient, enabling him or her to access novel treatments earlier. The greater the number of patients involved in research, the wider the public benefit.
Key actions that NIHR is leading on include:
NIHR Research Professorships and Academic Clinical Fellowships
The NIHR will be awarding Research Professorships to fund selected leaders in the early part of their careers, who are capable of making a real difference to the effective translation of research from the bench to the bedside, or the campus to the clinic. These awards will help to strengthen research leadership at the highest academic levels.
The Strategy also commends the NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship scheme, with over 750 clinical fellows currently funded in the system.
National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI)
NOCRI play a pivotal role in providing a single point of entry to NIHR-funded infrastructure for life sciences companies. This includes NOCRI’s lead role to redevelop the UK Experimental Medicine Resource Finder (www.ukcrcexpmed.org.uk) which provides an optimal entry point for industry and academic investigators seeking information about experimental medicine facilities.
Health Research Authority
The launch of the new Health Research Authority on 1st December to streamline regulation and improve the cost effectiveness of clinical trials. This is being supported by the NIHR Research Support Services Framework that will help reduce the unnecessary duplication of R&D checks. In addition, as announced in the Government’s Plan for Growth (published in March as part of the Budget), future NIHR research funding to NHS providers will be contingent on performance, for example, ensuring it takes 70 days or less from receipt of a valid research application to the time of first patient recruitment.
The Government will consult on amending the NHS Constitution, in order to support patients to have access to novel treatments and be part of the development of wider patient benefits, so that there is a default assumption (with ability to opt out):
- for data collected as part of NHS care to be used for approved research, with appropriate protection for patient confidentiality; and
- that patients are content to be approached about research studies for which they may be eligible, to enable them to decide whether they want a discussion about consenting to be involved in a research study.
The NIHR is investing £2.5m pump-priming this year in a new national NIHR Bioresource. The Cambridge NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is working with other NIHR BRCs in Oxford and London and with the NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in Leicester to develop this. The new capacity will help companies to recruit patients for stratified experimental medicine studies as well as providing the potential to study the molecular basis of disease, identify the most appropriate biomarkers for diagnosis and drug discovery, and to test the mechanism of action and effects of new drugs. The South London and Maudsley/King’s College London NIHR BRC is developing the bioinformatics to support this.
Clinical Practice Research Datalink
The Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) will be introduced by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), in partnership with NIHR, building on the NIHR Research Capability Programme. This £60m investment will offer data services, including: providing access to data for researchers (NHS, social care and others); data matching and linkage services; and data validation to support the clinical trial and observational study work of the life sciences research community.
Call for Centres in e-health
The Medical Research Council has worked in partnership with NIHR and a number of other research funders and devolved administrations to launch a £15 million call for Centres in e-health. These aim to build and sustain a vibrant health informatics research capability in the UK, and to maximise opportunities for utilising patient data to support research.
NIHR Biomedical Research Centres and Units
The Government’s £800m record investment, over five years from April 2012, for the creation of new NIHR Biomedical Research Centres and Units, and the establishment of two new NIHR Translational Research Partnerships.
UK Clinical Trials Gateway
The NIHR will launch an updated UK Clinical Trials Gateway in spring 2012. This website will enable patients and the public to access information about clinical trials, and will be a development of the test site launch in March 2011. To increase the number of patients who can benefit from being involved in trials via the Gateway, the NIHR has also developed a free Smart Phone App available for iPhone users (and shortly for Android). It provides a practical and innovative way for patients to access information about clinical trials.
NIHR/Guardian newspaper Clinical Research Zone
The NIHR has teamed up with the Guardian newspaper to launch the Clinical Research Zone. This hub publishes data on the participation of individual NHS Trusts in clinical trials and the number of patients recruited. Information will be presented as both a “heat map” of activity and a national league table.
NIHR Clinical Research Network
The Strategy highlights that more than half a million people participated in studies supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network in 2010, a 24% increase on the previous year.
Establishment of Academic Health Science Networks
The Government plans to establish a number of Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across the country. The NHS Chief Executive and the Chief Medical Officer will work with the NHS and industry to designate these networks with the first to go live during 2012/13. AHSNs will support Academic Health Science Centres and build on their models of accelerating adoption and diffusion, and will present a unique opportunity to align education, clinical research, informatics, innovation, training and education, and healthcare delivery.