The UK’s Global Leadership of the Genomics Revolution: 38th Annual JP Morgan Conference

By - World Healthcare Journal

The UK’s Global Leadership of the Genomics Revolution: 38th Annual JP Morgan Conference

This January, thousands of life science, healthcare, and biotech leaders attended the largest gathering of executives in the USA – the 38th Annual JP Morgan Conference.

Alongside dozens of meetings and events, Public Policy Projects and World Healthcare Journal organised a roundtable at the San Francisco conference with leaders from the UK Government, NHS England, Genomics England, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and finance communities.

JP Morgan roundup

During the week, big global topics at the conference included digital health, drug pricing, lack of diversity at the executive level, the genomics revolution and financing the growth of the biotech sector. At a UK level, Chair of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Committee Professor Sir John Bell published his 2020 Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Update.

This focuses on five key areas including NHS collaboration; the UK business environment; reinforcing the UK science offer, including clinical research, data, genomics, skills and advanced therapies; developing advanced therapies and advanced therapies manufacturing.

As Sir John stressed; “In the two years the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy has been in existence, there has been very substantial progress in making the UK a more attractive place for life sciences companies to succeed and grow. ”

“In two years, there has been very substantial progress in making the UK a more attractive place for life sciences companies to succeed and grow” - Professor Sir John Bell, Chair, Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Committee

In another ground-breaking announcement for the UK, NHS teams will partner with Novartis to launch a new cardiac arrest drug trial in a world-leading industry-academia partnership. In a major preventative health measure, UK citizens at risk of heart attacks are now set to receive a twice-yearly injection that is predicted to save up to 30,000 lives over the decade.

As one of the biggest population-wide initiatives undertaken anywhere in the world, Inclisiran, a cholesterol-lowering medicine, will identify and track suitable patients and eventually (if results are successful) see the drug offered across the NHS. While this is an important step for preventative health, in the context of Brexit, this move was designed to showcase the UK as an “attractive destination” for life sciences investment.

With a rich research ecosystem and its single-payer health system, the partnership between Novartis and the NHS is of crucial importance as the UK leaves the EU. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in the UK, described the deal as “A strong vote of confidence in our world-leading life sciences sector."

“The Novartis-NHS deal is a strong vote of confidence in our world-leading life sciences sector” - Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care

Making the UK home to clinical research and medical innovation

In partnership with Genomics England, NHS England and the UK Department for International Trade, Public Policy Projects, World Healthcare Journal and Global Counsel hosted a roundtable on the UK’s leadership of the genomics revolution and contribution to the research, industry and financial sectors.

Jointly chaired by former Deputy Chief Executive of NHS England, Matthew Swindells, and Managing Director of Public Policy Projects and World Healthcare Journal, Ben Howlett, thirty-five senior-level attendees representing the pharma, life science, biotech, digital and finance communities heard from other senior thought leaders across these sectors. Director of the UK Office for Life Sciences, Tamsin Berry, opened the Chatham House discussion followed by Chief Executive of the Accelerated Access Collaborative, Dr Sam Roberts, and Chief Commercial Officer of Genomics England, Professor Joanne Hackett.

The meeting covered a wide range of issues including the vibrant UK research sector and how academia-industry collaborations are revolutionising the way that patients are accessing treatments in the UK. The UK has all the components to make it the best place in the world to conduct healthcare research. To draw light on this world-leading sector, World Healthcare Journal and Public Policy Projects released their Excellence in the UK Research Ecosystem paper, written in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research and human data science company, IQVIA.

Life Sciences Industrial Strategy

Published in 2017, the industry-led UK Life Sciences Industrial Strategy plays to the UK’s strengths and focuses on data, advanced therapies and genomics. In its vision to make the UK home of clinical research and medical innovation, it recommends a joint programme of delivery between industry, the NHS and Government to create a globally-unique and internationally competitive life sciences ecosystem to deliver health and wealth.

Without this environment, there would not be 125,000 whole genomes currently sequenced in the UK. As a result, the 100,000 Genomes Project has now extended to five million and the UK Government has launched the Accelerated Detection of Disease Programme (ADD). £55 million has also been spent on polygenic risk scores on the whole cohort of those with sequenced genomes, which will add a new novel dimension to research opportunities. Later this year, the National Genomics Health Strategy will be published around the time of the UK Government Budget. The aim is to bring together all the genomic assets in the UK and discuss interoperability, regulation and partnership working to ensure effective delivery. There is a bid to the Treasury to deliver better clinical trials and add genomic data to those trials, enriching said data for long-term drug development.

AI and the AAC

Launched through Lord Darzi’s Accelerated Access Review in 2016, the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) increases innovation and uptake in the NHS, bringing together regulators, patient groups and industry. Through 26 products, there has been an increase in the uptake of innovation, devices, digital products, diagnostics and pathway changes.

So far, five out of the six AAC’s selected priorities are meeting their target and 250,000 patients have received access to treatments through the collaborative. In the last year, Amgen and Sanofi have partnered with the NHS to work on PCSK9 inhibitors, changing the pathway for cholesterol management and benefitting patients. In the future, there needs to be a joint product launch mentality in the NHS to create the optimum benefit for patients and to increase product reach.

In the coming years, there are innovative key focus areas coming through the pipeline, including artificial intelligence (AI), big data and histologic therapies. The UK assessment frameworks are not working to deliver approvals as effectively as NHS England would like and are in the process of being reformed. This will make the NHS a more attractive partner in the future. The NHS, regulators and industry are focused on large bodies of work that will make a significant difference to the attractiveness of the UK for inward investment.

The NHS knows that the volume of medicinal products for small patient cohorts does not receive a significant amount of investment, comparably. For cardiovascular disease, heart disease and COPD there is a fascinating opportunity to work together to set up studies such as the Orion study in the UK to do research before they get a NICE guideline assessment.

UK Government relationships with industry and academia

The relationship between industry and academia is key to the advancement of the genomics revolution and the UK life-sciences ecosystem. The UK aims to be at the forefront of the genomics revolution and is well on its way to sequencing five million genomes in five years. The UK Government and NHS continue to engage with the sector to listen and improve, making genomics a perfect testbed for international investment and an excellent global exemplar.

In partnership with industry, Genomics England selected new patients for clinical trials based on their genomics and completed two trials with Biogen on cancer and BergHealth on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2019.

In partnership with Illumina, the NHS announced their whole genome sequencing agreement in January 2020 to introduce it to a whole healthcare setting. Even where the science is not yet available, this agreement enables the NHS to collect the necessary data to put into the research system and access new diagnoses for patients, which has vital implications for healthcare on a global scale.

Learning the lessons from the UK

While the value of clinical trials for the NHS is well understood, the value of health technologies is not yet realised. The Health Advanced Research Programme aims to bring together a coalition of funders to advance healthcare and create new industries in the UK. Currently, there is generally poor knowledge of the relationship with investors in the UK on the value and monetisation of these health technologies. This needs further focus. The UK Government has announced the late-stage growth fund and is currently working through its implementation.

This has sparked conversations with investors and highlighted the issues with growth capital, crossover funds and fiscal incentives for start-up companies, public markets and others. A task and finish group has been established and, in 2020, the goal is to continue those conversations, identify areas that need to change and define the questions that should be asked of the UK Treasury. There has been a significant interest in the value of data and how the public can be brought along on this journey with partners. Work continues with organisations such as the Wellcome Trust to continue to educate the public on these matters.

Embracing change

The UK is a comparably small market, but internationally it punches well above its weight in terms of contribution to the overall global economy. On data and its value to the system, there is a long way to go in cultivating wider understanding.

There is a deep admiration for the world-leading work that Genomics England is undertaking in the UK. However, the challenge remains in making sure the infrastructure in the UK is developed to support this work. The big questions are; how can we close the loop between innovation and infrastructure and where does the data come from? We need to be careful not to upset the quality of UK data beyond what it already is. It could be so much richer, and the potential is there.



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