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The measurements of life

The vision of the life sciences industrial strategy and the role of measurement in realising it.

12 Jun 2018 11:39 AM

As the UK’s National Measurement Institute, we are playing a key role in a number of areas to ensure measurement can help government and industry grasp the opportunities the Strategy offers to advance UK R&D to benefit the economy and society.

Accelerating access

A key theme of the Strategy is increased collaboration between the NHS and industry, to accelerate the adoption of new treatments. Through the measurement infrastructure we are working to identify and engage with medical imaging companies to improve their competitiveness, support access to new markets, and help them deliver higher revenues and create more jobs. We are also working with NHS England in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Programme to enable healthcare scientists to build long-term partnerships between clinical, research and industry teams and speed up the identification and dissemination of high-value new approaches to improving patient outcomes and increasing efficiency through collaboration.

Closer working partnerships are also critical in tackling challenges such as late stage drug attrition and adopting a ‘failing fast’ approach – which is beneficial for industry and patients alike.

Image of medical theatre

It takes the pharmaceutical industry 10-15 years and more than $1bn to develop a drug to clinical trial stage. Of the four development phases, the Phase II clinical programmes have the lowest success rate, with only approximately 30% of developmental candidates advancing to Phase III. An improved measurement infrastructure could ensure that the drugs that will go on to fail are eliminated much earlier in the development process.

Multi-disciplinary partnerships are also important in discovering new diagnosis and treatment methods. For example, we are working on a multi-disciplinary project, funded by Cancer Research UK, to map a ‘Google Earth’ of cancer, with the aim to understand the molecular make-up different tumours in unprecedented detail. This work will help to revolutionise the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Fostering growth

The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy encourages the growth of start-ups, and the expansion of manufacturing in the UK. It announced £146 million to help fund new manufacturing centres for vaccines, cell and gene therapy and medicines manufacturing, in addition to announcing increasing R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP.

An important aspect in supporting growth is reproducibility of research, which is vital to achieving scientific consensus earlier to accelerate the uptake of discoveries. Standards provide certainty in the consistency of the product performance, which is crucial when deciding which products are commercialised by industry.

We are working with SynbiCITE at Imperial College London, in collaboration with LGC and NIBSC, to establish a new £7 million virtual lab to help the UK synthetic biology industry improve the manufacturing and adoption of new products through standardisation.

We are also working with Ingenza and the University of Plymouth, through an Innovate UK grant, to discover, screen and validate new classes of antimicrobials to tackle antimicrobial resistance, a problem that could cause up to 10 million deaths each year by 2050.

The project will use a class of antimicrobials, called epidermicins, which naturally target superbugs like MRSA, and enhance the antimicrobials’ efficacy and range of bacteria they can kill.

Good measurement is vital to achieving the aim of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy: to advance UK R&D and benefit the economy and society

Michael Adeogun - National Physical Laboratory

Data and digital health

Digital health is a key part of the Strategy. The UK is unique with the long-term data sets from the NHS, which can be used help to find trends, co-morbidities and effectiveness of treatments to improve healthcare. We are working in this area by exploring how metadata in medical datasets might be stored at a machinereadable level, to make this information more accessible for analysis.

We are also developing data standards to ensure data integrity, accelerate its use in critical applications like healthcare and drug development, and ease the integration of non-medical datasets, such as those from wearables, into a clinical setting.

We are part of a multi-disciplinary consortium shortlisted to Cancer Research UK’s second round of Grand Challenges which has proposed to identify changes in people’s behaviour through bringing together medical and non-medical data that will allow the earlier detection of cancer.

The vision of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, and the process initiated through the Life Sciences Sector deals, is to make the UK a world leader in this sector – and this should be welcomed. To get there, progress is required across the research, technology, manufacturing and regulatory landscapes, and measurement is critical to achieving this.

We look forward to working with partners in industry, academia and government to realising this vision.

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