On 17 October 2016, the Academy of Medical Sciences' FORUM and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) held a joint workshop to explore the 'The UK drug discovery landscape'.Ongoing
The way that drug discovery is conducted in the UK is changing, with a move towards more collaboration and increasing open innovation, a trend being mirrored on a global scale. While this shift provides significant opportunities for the UK to continue to excel in drug development, to fully benefit we will need to adapt to the challenges that may arise from a changing landscape.
Therefore on the 17 October 2016, the Academy and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) held a joint FORUM workshop to explore 'The UK drug discovery landscape'. Delegates were convened from across the life sciences sector to identify challenges, gaps and opportunities in drug discovery, using an ABPI report describing the changes that have taken place in UK drug discovery as an evidence base for discussion. The meeting report can be downloaded from the righthand side of this page.
Key themes emerging from the meeting included:
- The importance of cross-sector collaboration and a multi-disciplinary approach to drug discovery, with further integration required across industry, academia and the broader healthcare system.
- The need to continue to attract more international and private (venture capital) funding for discovery in the UK.
- The importance of building capacity and capability across sectors to ensure the availability and sustainability of skillsets integral to discovery science.
- The significant value of a diverse drug discovery ecosystem in the UK and recognition of the important roles of different stakeholders, and the need to align and communicate practice, expectations and needs across sectors.
Over recent years pharmaceutical R&D within the UK has undergone a significant transformation. In response to the challenges and opportunities presented by this changing world of medicines research, the Academy previously participated in an informal partnership termed the Drug Discovery Pathways Group (DDPG) which comprises a number of learned societies and professional bodies including the Biochemical Society, British Pharmacological Society, Royal Society of Biology and Royal Society of Chemistry.
This Group seeks to establish a networked community of skilled researchers to help revitalise the UK pharmaceutical sector, to provide exciting career opportunities for world class scientists and to translate advances in biomedical research into safe and effective therapies that deliver benefit to patients and contribute to the nation’s economic growth by:
• Establishing a single representative voice on key issues; and
• Developing solutions to meet the needs of the wider medicines research community.For further background see the Research Fortnight article written by David Phillips: Big pharma is broken, how can we fix it
The group’s work has largely focused on 3 main areas; industry-academia partnerships, knowledge and skills. A brief summary of each area is provided below.
As the presence of large pharma in the UK continues to diminish, a complementary and sustainable model with public and private sector participation is urgently required. Collaboration between industry and academia is vital to enable the translation of biomedical opportunities into safe and effective medicines.
The DDPG recognises that, in practice, a range of approaches are required to support these complex and multi-faceted relationships. For further background, see the Research Fortnight article written by David Fox from the RSC: Keep making the tablets.
Learned Societies already undertake a range of activities to provide easier access to high quality data, to support medicines research and to promote precompetitive collaboration. To complement this work, the DDPG is supported a series of precompetitive workshops in key areas of medicines research.
The general trend towards downsizing among large multinational pharmaceutical companies has resulted in a lowered training capacity. It is vital that key skills are not lost and the DDPG recognises that there is a window of opportunity to retain and develop world class talent. To this end, a skills sub-group was formed to champion a number of initiatives.
As well as maintaining a deep knowledge of their core discipline, researchers increasingly need to have a working knowledge of aligned disciplines as well as the transferable skills that enable them to function effectively across scientific, cultural and geographical boundaries. One way to support this is through continuing professional development (CPD). It is also becoming increasingly important for researchers to move freely between disciplines and sectors in order to build networks and drive forward medicines research as well as to support career development. The DDPG has worked with academia, industry and funding bodies to help establish a more ‘permeable’ environment that encourages researcher mobility.
For further background, see the Research Fortnight article written by Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, Drug discoverers must adapt to a more complex world, and the RSC News article, Removing boundaries: Enabling the movement of researchers across disciplines and the industry-academia interface.
Interim Head of Policy
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