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Labour unveils new Life Sciences sector plan

By February 7, 2024No Comments

 

Last week, the Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting and the Shadow Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Peter Kyle revealed Labour’s plans for the life sciences sector should they form the next Government.

During the unveiling, the Shadow Secretaries declared that the NHS should be ‘an engine for innovation for our country’ and ‘the latest wave of technology can transform how medical treatments are discovered and delivered’.

The Party’s plan has committed to support for investment in innovation, including by maintaining the patent box regime and the current structure of the R&D tax credits.

They will also ensure the NHS is supporting innovation to improve patient outcomes, and working with industry to set out the technologies and disease areas for which the UK should aim to be a frontier market; these could include cell and gene therapy, mRNA vaccines, and the use of AI in life sciences and healthcare.

A pledge to guarantee most spinouts are able to scale up in the UK was made, partly through working with the UK’s world-leading universities to develop ‘Founder-track’ options for spinouts, where they can retain a greater share of equity.

Furthermore, ministerial ownership within the Department of Health and Social Care will lie with the Secretary of State, who will work with DSIT ministers to empower the Office for Life Sciences.

BIVDA’s Head of Policy, Programmes and Compliance, Paul Fisher, stated: “BIVDA are delighted to see the clear recognition that overregulation of products places on manufacturers, and the focus on cross government solutions.

“Linking health to innovation and science under one owner is something we have advocated for some time, but we would be keen to see the Department for Business and Trade involved.  Investment and export sales are vital to the sector, and the UK’s economic economy.

“Better use of medical diagnostics – which play a part in 70% of clinical decisions – are key to improving NHS performance and improving patient outcomes.

“As the trade organisation for medical diagnostics, BIVDA will continue to work to inform policy makers and ensure diagnostics remain at the heart of the Life Science sector.”

A full summary of Labour’s pledges can be found below:

Labour’s Industrial Strategy

1.    Bolster the Life Sciences Council and ensure its decisions are acted upon by having it report directly into the Industrial Strategy Council.
2.    Strengthen the Office for Life Sciences, so that it is politically empowered to truly drive delivery across government.
3.    Place life sciences and innovation directly under the Health Secretary’s ministerial responsibilities, representing a key priority for the department of Health, alongside the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

Providing stability and certainty for innovation by taking a long-term approach to public R&D funding

1.    Create a more certain funding environment and a more streamlined funding process, to end Tory short-termism and attract long-term investment. We will set 10-year budgets for key R&D institutions such as UKRI.
2.    Cut red tape and introduce a system of earned trust in place of retrospective and repetitive reporting and audit by Government departments and UKRI.
3.    Increase the number of spinouts coming out of universities, and structure the innovation funding system to ensure more of them successfully scale-up.

Harnessing data to improve services for patients and power cutting-edge medical research

1.    Deliver on work underway to create linked Secure Data Environments.
2.    Ensure proper federation of data sets, with a single access point for researchers to use data from all our genomic resources (UK Biobank, OFH, GEL, NIHR Bioresource)
3.    Seize the opportunity NHS Federated data platform offers, using this platform to improve the way we use patient data in the NHS, in a safe and secure way, as a means to deliver better treatment and care.
4.    Drive inter-operability between digital systems in the NHS and in care from the bottom-up, by making the NHS App a one-stop shop for health information.
5.    Ensure that there is a senior official accountable for delivery across organisations within DHSC, who will report to the Life Sciences Council on progress each time it meets.

Increasing access to finance

1.    Undertake a broader in-government pensions review.
2.    Enable greater consolidation across all pension and retirement saving schemes (DB, DC, and LGPS)  For DC schemes, Labour will give The Pensions Regulator (TPR) new powers to bring about consolidation where schemes fail to offer sufficient value for their members
3.    Empower the British Business Bank (BBB) with a more ambitious remit: A future Labour government will look to empower the BBB with a more ambitious remit focused on providing growth capital, enabling regional development, and streamlining support offerings for SMEs.
4.    Establish a British ‘Tibi’ scheme. Labour will set up an opt-in scheme for DC funds to invest a proportion of their assets into UK growth assets – split between VC and small cap growth equity, and infrastructure investment.

Improving the business environment

1.    Maintain the current structure of R&D tax credits over the next parliament, while cracking down on fraudulent claims and those made in error.
2.    Evaluate the impact of the R&D tax credit scheme on a sector-by-sector basis, starting with the Life Sciences industry.
3.    Labour is committed to maintaining the patent box regime and protecting the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Venture Capital Trusts (VCT).

Modernising and unblocking the regulatory regime

1.    Create a Regulatory Innovation Office (RIO) to hold regulators accountable for driving innovation where appropriate and for delays that are holding back innovation. The RIO will bring together the Regulation Executive and the secretariat for the Regulatory Horizons Council and will:
2.    Set and monitor targets for regulatory approval timelines, benchmarked against international comparators.
3.    Provide strategic steers for what activity regulators should be prioritising, drawing on priorities from Labour’s industrial strategy.
4.    Support a beefed-up Regulatory Horizons Council, with a new requirement for government to respond to its reports within a set time period.

Planning reform to support the life sciences industry

1.    Bring laboratory clusters within the scope of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Regime in England.
2.    Create new National Development Management Policies tilting the scales in favour of new lab space in our planning system for England.

Skills

1.    Reform the Apprenticeships Levy into a ‘Growth and Skills Levy’ so it can be used on the greater range of training courses that businesses tell us they need, so workers can gain new skills.
2.    Commit to long-term workforce planning across the NHS and social care will review training and look at creating new types of health and care professionals that draw on a diverse skills mix, including  the skills staff need to support clinical trials and recruit patients.

Ensuring the NHS is supporting innovation to improve health outcomes

1.    Develop a comprehensive innovation and adoption strategy in England, working with industry, patients and ICSs. Our strategy will align to the existing Life Sciences Vision and focus the system on harnessing innovation to improve outcomes.
2.    Labour also recognises that as a universal, single payer system serving a diverse population, the NHS has the potential to lead the world in clinical trials to develop new life saving treatments and technologies.
3.    Speed up recruitment: by making sure that patients who are interested in participating in research can be reached quickly and easily.
4.    Give more people the chance to participate: wherever they live in Britain, rather than having research opportunities concentrated on where the big centres are, by identifying patients who would benefit through NHS data and working with devolved nations so patients can access clinical trials regardless of which NHS they reside in.
5.    Improve the diversity of people who participate: so we test treatments on populations that better reflect the people who need them.

IP/ Trade

1.    Publish a trade strategy which sets out clear priorities for vital growth sectors like life sciences.
2.    Give the Board of Trade a proper purpose as an independent advisory agency, accountable to the Secretary of State, advising on the impacts of regulation on trade and horizon scanning for opportunities
3.    Ensure reciprocal levels of IP protection in countries with which the UK trades while maintaining our continued support of the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
4.    Use bilateral and multilateral negotiations as an opportunity to remove redundant or duplicative requirements UK medicines face when accessing markets overseas, and maximise opportunities presented by our high regulatory standards to minimise regulatory trade barriers.

Dawn