UK bid to become life sciences leader will fail without national coordination
The chief executive of an organisation dedicated to life sciences research in the north of England has warned that the country's bid to become a leader in the field will fail without a nation-wide effort.
Hakim Yadi, chief executive of the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), told APM that the current focus on biotechnology "clusters", such as the ones in Cambridge and Oxford will not be enough to make the UK a world leader in life sciences.
He told APM in a telephone interview this week: "The UK life sciences strategy won't happen if we focus on clusters."
A national effort involving coordinated research via a national network is now needed to ensure the UK can compete with the U.S., he said.
"We have strong access to capital... but we have all got to be working together," said Yadi.
The UK's coalition government's life science strategy is a key part of its ongoing programme to revive the country's economic fortunes.
The NHSA is a company established by universities and teaching hospitals in the north of England to promote the region as a "life science and healthcare system", according to its website.
NHSA was formed from a group of eight deans of medical colleges and eight teaching hospitals who have been meeting to find ways to improve medical research.
Its goal is to build relationships between academic researchers and life sciences companies, to develop new medical technologies, including drugs.
Participating institutions include the universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, along with hospitals including Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
However Pfizer's bid for AstraZeneca is proof of the UK's growing influence in life sciences, said Yadi.
Unlike some working in the life sciences industry, Yadi was more upbeat about the prospect of the takeover.
He said: "I do think it shows a fantastic commitment to the life sciences research that we are doing in the UK. The establishment of a world leading pharmaceutical company can only be an endorsement of the life sciences R&D that has given us (AstraZeneca's lung cancer drug) Iressa (gefitinib)."
NHSA has already announced a partnership deal with U.S.-based Proteus Digital Health, which makes products including ingestible sensors that can be used to monitor response to medications, allowing this data to be monitored via a Bluetooth device.
It has also announced a partnership with Swedish medical IT company to develop a radiation dose tracking technology and with Cambridge-based genomics company Congenica.
But Yadi said he expects to announce deals involving pharma companies in the coming months.
He told APM: "The first couple of relationships have been with medical devices but we are working with a number of pharmaceutical companies."
NHSA is acting as a "talent scout" for pharma companies, which Yadi did not name, who are looking for potential new drugs being developed in UK universities.
"We go out and find if there are technologies that can be used by pharma. There are a number of companies that we are doing this with. We are a single point of contact and we can identify those academics with assets."
Yadi added that the NHSA is also promoting the north of England as a place for clinical research and connecting pharma companies with potential patients for clinical trials.
"We are also working to see how we could be more efficient in terms of clinical trial recruitment. We are working to see if we can help pharma identify patients.