The State of the Drug Discovery Nation unveiled as new report provides vital insights for the development of new medicines

A new joint report ‘State of the Discovery Nation 2018’, by the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association, launched by Sir Mark Walport today [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[1] 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[2].

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 is speaking at the launch event at the Medicines Discovery Catapult’s headquarters at Alderley Park in Cheshire. She says:

“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/

- Ends -

[1] https://www.bio.org/sites/default/files/Clinical%20Development%20Success%20Rates%202006-2015%20-%20BIO,%20Biomedtracker,%20Amplion%202016.pdf

[2] https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/life-sciences-and-healthcare/articles/measuring-return-from-pharmaceutical-innovation.html

For further information, an embargoed copy of the report or to arrange interviews, please contact Kate Beard or Alice Lythgoe-Goldstein at Amazon PR (working on behalf of the Medicines Discovery Catapult) on 020 7700 6952 or email Kate@amazonpr.co.uk.

Media interviews

The report will be formally launched on 18 January at an event at the Medicines Discovery Catapult’s headquarters at Alderley Park in Cheshire.

There will be speeches from Sir Mark Walport, the Chief Executive Designate of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Medicines Discovery Catapult CEO Chris Molloy.

Journalists can arrange interviews as well as tours of the new state of the art laboratories. Please email Kate@amazonpr.co.uk for further information.

 

Chris Molloy – CEO of the Medicines Discovery Catapult

Chris has over 25 years international Executive and Board experience across multiple areas of Medicines Discovery, including roles as Chief Operating Officer of MerLion Pharmaceuticals in Singapore and VP Corporate Development and Marketing at IDBS, an international software company focused on improving R&D and healthcare organisations through better access to data.

 

Steve Bates - BIA CEO

Since his appointment as Chief Executive Officer of the BioIndustry Association in 2012, Steve Bates has led major BIA campaigns for, amongst other things, improved access to finance, the refilling of the Biomedical Catalyst, anti-microbial resistance and the opportunity the sector presents to generalist long term investors.

Steve champions the adaptive pathway approach to the licensing of new drugs, the need for Early Access and is particularly proud of the working relationship the BIA has established with the UK’s leading medical research charities.     

A founder member of United Life Sciences, a strategic partnership representing over 1000 life science and healthcare member companies across the UK and internationally, Steve attends the UK’s Ministerial Industry Strategy Group, and sits on The Royal Society's Science, Industry & Translation Committee.

Beyond the UK Steve is a member of EuropaBio’s Board and its National Association Council and is a founder member and Vice-Chair of the International Council of Biotech Associations.

An expert and regular commentator on the sector in the media and at industry-leading conferences, Steve has worked both in biotech (as Senior Director at Genzyme UK and Ireland) and at the highest levels of UK government (as Special Advisor to John Reid, MP, during his time in Tony Blair’s government) for over 15 years.

In the 2016 New Year’s Honours List Steve was awarded an OBE for his services to Innovation.

 

Notes to Editors:

About the report

‘State of the Discovery Nation 2018, and the role of the Medicines Discovery Catapult’ is a joint report by the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association. Primary research was conducted in Q1 2017 with follow-up in Q3 2017. It draws on recent reports on the state of UK commercial drug discovery from the Wellcome Trust, the Biotechnology Industry Association, the Office for Life Science, the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry and others. In addition, researchers carried out surveys with the top managers of UK companies in this field and conducted interviews with over 100 of them, providing unique insights into the state of the UK drug discovery nation, how it can be supported, and how any remaining issues or opportunities can be progressed through partnership with charities, research funders, academics, clinicians, investors, and policy-makers.

 

About the Medicines Discovery Catapult

The Medicines Discovery Catapult is a national centre of applied Research and Development expertise to promote and support innovative, fast-to-patient drug discovery in the UK through collaborative projects.

It is one of a network of elite, not-for-profit technology and innovation centres established by Innovate UK as a long-term investment in the UK’s economy. The Medicines Discovery Catapult will work with industry, academic teams, technology experts, charities, regulators and others, to develop new approaches for the discovery and early development of new medicines helping to transform ideas into commercial products and services for the wider health and wealth of the country.

By developing and validating new ways of discovering new medicines, and promoting key talent and expertise across sectors, it can help the UK maintain its heritage position as a global leader in this key industry.

https://md.catapult.org.uk/

 

About the BioIndustry Association

Established over 25 years ago at the infancy of biotechnology, the BioIndustry Association (BIA) is the trade association for innovative enterprises involved in UK bioscience. Members include emerging and more established bioscience companies; pharmaceutical companies; academic, research and philanthropic organisations; and service providers to the bioscience sector. The BIA represents the interests of its members to a broad section of stakeholders, from government and regulators to patient groups and the media. Our goal is to secure the UK's position as a global hub and as the best location for innovative research and commercialisation, enabling our world-leading research base to deliver healthcare solutions that can truly make a difference to people's lives.

For further information, please go to www.bioindustry.org and twitter.com/BIA_UK.

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