Tech Bio

Introduction from BIA CEO, Steve Bates

This explainer booklet gives an introduction to the exciting BIA member companies that are working at the interface of biotechnology and technology, and shows how they are already making an impact on drug discovery and patient care. Data-driven life sciences technology or tech bio is an area where the BIA is rapidly building its expertise and we will be working hard to bring together all elements of the biotechnology landscape to ensure that these companies have the right policy framework and the investment that they need to grow and succeed. We have interviewed our members to inform the content of this booklet and I would like to thank them for their insights and for sharing just some of the fascinating work they doing to bring tech bio to life.

Thank you to BIA members who took part in completing the survey and taking part in the 1-2-1 interviews that informed the content of this project.

Please download the full report below for some case studies of incredible companies working at the interface of biotechnology and technology and get in touch with Michael McGivern, Head of Membership mmcgivern@bioindustry.org for more information about getting involved.

 

 

 

Foreword from NHS England Chairman

Foreword from NHS England Chairman, Lord David Prior

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on healthcare systems around the world. The rapid and effective response from the National Health Service (NHS) and our life sciences industry working together has led to the UK being at the forefront of finding solutions to tackle this terrible pandemic. The use of data has been critical to our understanding of the virus and its impact, and this data has underpinned the tremendous efforts of academics and industry to develop COVID-19 vaccines.

Transforming the future of healthcare will rest on the new technologies and therapies emerging within the life sciences sector. Developing the innovations we are seeing in data-driven life sciences technology will be pivotal as we transform drug discovery pathways and patient care. If we are to succeed with this transformation, then it is critical that we bring patients with us on the journey. By ensuring transparency and through continued engagement, we will build patient confidence in sharing their data in order to ultimately drive better health outcomes for all.

The use of data-driven life sciences technologies is central to the UK government’s Life Sciences Vision. We foresee an NHS where research is embedded as a core part of effective patient care to deliver our goal of a digitally enabled and pro-innovation clinical research environment. To ensure that the NHS can flourish as an innovation partner, we will be looking carefully at how the NHS enables access to patient data to aid research and that we share data in a format that is research-ready.

This booklet shows that the NHS gives the UK a unique opportunity, and a key global advantage, to facilitate patient centred research and development. Collaboration between NHS and life sciences companies is already changing health outcomes and there is a huge potential to transform future healthcare for patients here in the UK and around the world. With controlled access to NHS data, we can support data-driven life sciences companies to create a more cost-effective and efficient healthcare system as we move into the future.

 

Defining and understanding

The aim of this booklet is to introduce and explain the impact that data-driven life sciences companies are having on drug discovery and patient care. Data-driven life sciences companies work at the interface between biotechnology and technology – so another way to describe companies is to take the ‘tech’ of technology and the ‘bio’ of biotechnology to create ‘tech bio.’ They combine cutting-edge techniques from both sectors to draw insights from a wealth of data, including data concerning patients, drug molecules, healthcare infrastructure and research and development, to inform and transform drug discovery and patient care.

These companies are producing data-driven technology that will enable the healthcare system to deliver more personalised healthcare to more patients, more quickly, and at a lower cost.

The work of these companies and their ground-breaking technologies has never been more relevant. The COVID-19 pandemic increased interest in how health data can be collected and the benefits of using this data to rapidly develop vaccines, manage healthcare resources, and repurpose existing drugs. The RECOVERY trial demonstrated the UK’s ability to deliver data-driven healthcare at pace. With more than 30,000 participants across 177 trial sites in the UK, it is the world’s largest clinical trial into COVID-19 treatments. The results indicated that dexamethasone, a cheap, readily available steroid, reduced deaths of ventilated patients with COVID-19 by one-third.


The UK government is now working to capitalise on the innovation inspired by the pandemic response, using it as a blueprint for the UK Life Sciences Vision launched in July 2021. This sets a 10-year strategy for the life sciences sector to accelerate delivery of innovations to patients, much of which will come from data-driven life sciences companies.
People are seeing that donating and sharing their data can play a direct role in improving health outcomes, similar to donating blood. Despite game-changing advancements in data-driven life sciences during the pandemic, the public still have concerns over how their data is managed and shared. Building trust and maintaining transparency continue to be vital to reassure people that their data is not being exploited for negative purposes and persuade them to continue sharing it.

 

 

Opportunities and obstacles

 

Member companies of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) give many reasons for choosing to be based in the UK.

These include:
• opportunities for NHS collaboration in research and development
• government funding, including Innovate UK
• the breadth of excellent science coming out of UK academic institutions
• access to science and technology talent
• well-developed infrastructure
• ties to Europe
• growing public and private investor base
• the MHRA as a highly respected regulator
• well-developed scientific clusters that attract international talent and innovation.

Despite these benefits, UK-based data-driven life sciences companies face the challenge of a fragmented healthcare system, as well as complexities in overall responsibility for managing data and technology within healthcare. The NHS, which is rich in health data, places the UK in a unique global position. However, the NHS has faced issues in how to collect, curate and ultimately share this data to make a positive impact on patient health. Many bodies exist in and around the NHS, but with no centralised hub or controlling body, it is difficult for companies to know where to target their resources to access the data.

Several bodies share responsibility for regulating the collection, storage and sharing of health data and related data-driven technology. This includes the Department for Health, NHS England, NHS Digital, NHS X, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Genomics England and Health Data Research UK. Companies that have used the NHS as a research partner describe it as fertile ground for innovation. But companies may have worked within one NHS Trust in the research and development phase to validate their technology. They must then go to each Trust in turn to sell their technology in because there is no central procurement. This piecemeal approach to integrating technology into the health system could lead to issues with the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information (interoperability). Working at the interface of technology and medicine creates further challenges for data-driven healthcare companies, which we will explore in detail in this booklet. These include regulation (page 15) and obtaining investment (page 16).

Addressing the barriers to success

The UK government is taking steps to address these challenges. Its Life Sciences Vision sets out preconditions to address the fragmentation of the healthcare system and boost support for data-driven life sciences companies. Several examples already show these barriers can be overcome and that collaborations between industry and the NHS have the potential to transform the future of patient care. The RECOVERY Trial and the development of Test, Track and Trace have demonstrated the value of using healthcare data to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHS has also worked with Palantir to better manage NHS resources during the pandemic (see next page). Data-driven healthcare is already making a difference outside the pandemic response. The government is collaborating with pharmaceutical company Novartis to tackle heart disease – a leading cause of death in the UK.Member companies of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) give many reasons for choosing to be based in the UK.

Several examples already show these barriers can be overcome and that collaborations between industry and the NHS have the potential to transform the future of patient care. The RECOVERY Trial and the development of Test, Track and Trace have demonstrated the value of using healthcare data to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHS has also worked with Palantir to better manage NHS resources during the pandemic (see next page). Data-driven healthcare is already making a difference outside the pandemic response. The government is collaborating with pharmaceutical company Novartis to tackle heart disease – a leading cause of death in the UK.

 

 

Improving the UK landscape

The UK government has recognised the opportunity of datadriven life sciences for the UK with the Life Sciences Vision, which highlights the need “to harness the UK’s unique health data”, seeking to simplify the oversight of NHS health data to drive research and innovation.

At the launch of the Vision, Sir Jonathan Symonds, chairman of GSK and co-chair of the Life Sciences Vision external advisory group, said:

"Addressing the healthcare challenges we face today requires a life sciences strategy of bold ideas backed by evidence and data. The vision we are setting out provides a new blueprint for how government, the NHS and industry can work together to deliver the next generation of therapies, diagnostics and insights to improve patient health, to create a truly outstanding environment for healthcare companies to invest and grow and to reinforce the UK’s position as a leading global destination for medical scientific research and investment."

This Vision has been followed by the first national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy in the UK. The 10-year plan seeks to strengthen the country’s position as a global leader in AI innovation, regulation and adoption. Also, the UK’s National Data Strategy, the Data Saves Lives policy paper, and the upcoming Goldacre Review will further promote and embed broader use of health data for research and innovation.Together, this activity represents a clear drive to make the UK a global leader in AI and data-driven life science.

To support this, the BIA has specific policy ‘asks’ that would better enable data-driven life sciences companies in the UK to grow and scale.


The UK is at the cutting edge of data-driven life sciences but competition for global investment is strong.


• The UK government should ensure the UK is fertile ground for private investment here by expanding R&D tax credits to include data and cloud computing costs and support early-stage projects with innovation grant funding, which leverages downstream private investment.
• There is a rich ecosystem of data-driven life sciences companies in the UK with the potential to become the next generation of global giants. Government agencies and NHS bodies should have a unified strategy that champions UK data-driven health SMEs and supports their growth by providing access to projects, contracts and data.
• Countries that wish to be at the cutting edge of innovation and see benefit for society must embrace new technology and approaches. Regulators should be agile and responsive to the needs of innovative data-driven life sciences companies, streamlining and facilitating the route from innovation to market.

 

 

References

Consultation: Data: a new direction, DCMS: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/data-a-new-direction

Data Protection Impact Assessment: NHS COVID-19 Data Store, NHS England: https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/

data-protection-impact-assessment-nhs-covid-19-data-store/TheGoldacre Review: https://www.goldacrereview.org/

Guidance: Software and AI as a Medical Device Change Programme, MHRA: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/software-and-ai-as-a-medical-device-change-programme

Guidance: National AI Strategy, Office for Artificial Intelligence, BEIS, DCMS: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-ai-strategy

NHS COVID-19 Data Store, NHS England: https://www.england.nhs.uk/contact-us/privacy-notice/how-we-use-yourinformation/covid-19-response/nhs-covid-19-data-store/

Press release: Bold new life sciences vision sets path for UK to build on pandemic response and deliver life-changing innovations to patients, gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bold-new-life-sciences-vision-sets-path-for-uk-tobuild-on-pandemic-response-and-deliver-life-changing-innovations-to-patients

Press release: New heart disease drug to be made available for NHS patients, gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/
news/new-heart-disease-drug-to-be-made-available-for-nhs-patients

Purpose_based_access_controls_at_Palantir_(PalantirExplained,#2),Palantir:https://blog.palantir.com/purposebasedaccesscontrolsatpalantirf419faa400b3gi=7462bcb919d7#:~:text=Instead%20of%20applying%20for%20access,%E2%80%94%20no%20more%2C%20no%20less.

Policy paper: Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data (draft), DHSC: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/data-saves-lives-reshaping-health-and-social-care-with-data-draft/data-saves-lives-reshaping-health-andsocial-care-with-data-draft

RECOVERY Trial, UKRI: https://www.ukri.org/our-work/tackling-the-impact-of-covid-19/vaccines-and-treatments/recoverytrial- identifies-covid-19-treatments/

The Life Sciences Vision, HM Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/life-sciences-vision

The science of success, BIA: https://www.bioindustry.org/resource-listing/the-science-of-success-pdf.html

Predicting the future of healthcare and life sciences in 2025: The future unmasked, Deloitte: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/ en/pages/life-sciences-and-healthcare/articles/life-sciences-and-health-care-predictions.html

Thank you to BIA members who took part in completing the survey and taking part in the 1-2-1 interviews that informed the content of this project.