How the Covid-19 vaccine shaped the UK’s life sciences sector in 2021
December 2021 marked twelve months since the first Covid-19 vaccine was administered, in a year that was full of challenges and innovation. The pandemic has put life sciences and healthcare at the forefront of public life with many realising the importance of scientific research to manage the impact of a global virus.
The UK’s life science sector played a remarkable part in the development of a safe and effective vaccine that could be used across the globe. As a result, there is ample reason for the UK to be excited about the future of its life science sector and the progress that is still to come. Here, we take a look at how the Covid-19 vaccine shaped 2021 for the UK’s life science sector and what the future now holds.
The formation of The Life Sciences Vision
Excellence in UK life sciences research provided the lifesaving AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which was developed, manufactured and delivered with incredible speed. With more than 64 per cent of the British public now having received two doses, the vaccine can be seen as a great success, leading to further initiative and development.
The success of the Covid-19 vaccine has prompted the UK government to launch The Life Sciences Vision. This vision represents a change in the growth and development of the UK’s life sciences sector aiming to provide the industry with the platform for rapid growth. The programme is designed to provide additional funding to an already thriving industry, which can help to develop life-changing innovations and solve the most pressing health challenges of today. The Vision was launched with a £200 million investment to unlock the potential of innovative UK life sciences and tackle key issues such as:
· Preventing, diagnosing, disease monitoring & treating disease early
· Development of breakthrough products and treatments through innovative clinical trials
· To accelerate the development and adoption of new drugs, diagnostics, medical technology and digital tools
Improvement of manufacturing facilities
The UK has a proud history of Life Sciences manufacturing, and there are over 2,000 manufacturing sites throughout the UK. However, over the past 15 years, manufacturing efficiency has decreased and since 2009, production volumes have fallen by 29%.
The COVID-19 vaccine production demonstrated the potential of the UK’s medical manufacturing sector and emphasis on innovation, particularly in medical technology is now at the forefront of the government’s mind. The government’s ambition for the life sciences sector is to drive an overhaul of the manufacturing process over the next decade. The initiative will look to target areas in which the UK has, or could develop substantially such as cell and gene therapies, viral vectors, and more.
Additional funding for innovation
In the wake of Britain’s remarkable response to Covid-19, 2021 saw strong demand from global investors for UK innovation. Within the first six months, the UK’s life science sector saw £1.56bn invested, including £400m from Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies to create the largest biopharmaceutical manufacturing site in the UK; and £30m from GSK to tackle diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This influx of investment will help the UK achieve its outlined missions which include:
· Making the UK a leading place in the world to develop the first new treatments for dementia
· Using the most innovative new technologies to help tackle overweight and obese individuals
· Increase the understanding of mental health conditions, developing the right tools to deliver game-changing outcomes for patients
· Diagnose cancer with increased specificity, making the UK the best place in the world to develop and use targeted diagnostics and treatments
The government also set a target spend of 2.4% of GDP on aiding R&D by 2027 in an attempt to transform Britain into a scientific and technology superpower. This incredible show of support is undoubtedly a result of the progress made throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and will lead to a stronger and more prosperous life sciences sector.
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