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Media & Parliamentary Monitoring: 10/01 – 14/01

By January 14, 2022No Comments

What’s been said in Parliament this week?

In a debate on UK Productivity, Bill Esterson MP (Lab) asked why the Government were buying tests from China rather than the UK. He went on to accuse the MHRA of delaying approval to British tests, leading British companies unable to sell their tests at home but able to sell them abroad.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, responded by stating that the UK was a “world-leading life sciences manufacturing nation”.

The subject of science and innovation in the levelling up agenda also appeared in Parliament this week. Karl McCartney MP (Con) enquired how the Government intended to utilise science and innovation to bolster the levelling up agenda and what financial support companies can seek from the Government in order to flourish and expand.

Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman noted that “UK leadership in science, technology and innovation is already driving huge investment in new sectors, companies and clusters throughout the UK”. However, he stated the need to go even further and support life science clusters – details of which will be released soon in a levelling up White Paper. Moreover, in the comprehensive spending review, the Government set out the biggest increase in science and innovation investment in a generation.

Dan Jarvis MP (Lab) championed the work of the University of Sheffield’s new gene therapy and wanted assurances from the minister that the North will get its “fair share” of R&D funding, as half of it currently goes to the golden triangle.
Responding, the minister acknowledged the incredible clusters of Yorkshire and stated that their strategy is to increase spending in the North – which he confirmed is already happening – and grow supply chains in many areas, including advanced manufacturing.

In a further life sciences debate, both Peter Gibson MP (Con) and Simon Fell MP (Con) asked the Science and Innovation Minister what his Department were doing to support the UK’s life sciences sector.
The minister claimed many jobs were being created in the sector and has grown 1000% in the last 10 years in terms of private investment. He also pointed to the life sciences vision, which included £5 billion in the comprehensive spending review of funding for life science research.

Following a number of contributions from MPs regarding life science interests pertaining to their constituencies, Richard Fuller MP (Con) requested that the minister undertake a review, along with UKHSA, of the CTDA approval process so that lessons can be learned for the benefit of UK manufacturers in the future.

The minister declared that he had already reached out to DHSC to ensure that, following the pandemic, the UK’s manufacturing centre is boosted as well as research.

Chi Onwurah MP (Lab) pressed the minister on whether dementia R&D spend had decreased since the Government took office.

The minister stated the Government was in the process of delivering the biggest ever R&D increase and that dementia will get appropriate funding when the money is allocated.

Headlines from the week:

Private Hospitals To ‘Support NHS’ Through COVID

  • NHS hospitals will be able to use spare capacity in the private sector if Omicron cases cause unsustainable pressure on services
  • Private facilities and staff will be on standby as part of a new three-month deal that has been agreed for an undisclosed sum
  • NHS England said patients who can be referred include some of those waiting for cancer operations

Illumina and Agendia to co-develop in vitro diagnostic tests for oncology

  • The alliance aims to progress the use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) for decentralised testing and is consistent with the approach of Illumina to oncology IVD collaborations.
  • Leveraging the Illumina MiSeqDx sequencing platform, the companies intend to develop new diagnostics to improve breast patient cancer care and management

A year of change expected in UK life sciences in 2022

  • Efforts to strengthen the UK’s reputation as an attractive location for investing in life sciences will take a significant step forward in 2022
  • Major developments in UK policy and regulation – including in areas such as tax, use of data, clinical trial testing of medicines, and the use of artificial intelligence tools and medical devices – that will shape the sector for years to come

Fastest DNA sequencing technique helps undiagnosed patients find answers in mere hours

    • A new ultra-rapid genome sequencing approach developed by Stanford Medicine scientists and their collaborators was used to diagnose rare genetic diseases in an average of eight hours
    • Genome sequencing is vital for diagnosing patients with diseases rooted in their DNA: Once doctors know the specific genetic mutation, they can tailor treatments accordingly
    • In one of the cases, it took a snappy 5 hours and 2 minutes to sequence a patient’s genome, which set the first Guinness World Records title for fastest DNA sequencing technique