UK pharmaceutical companies conducting early stage clinical trials will be able to collaborate more extensively with leading medical academics following the government’s launch of two pioneering partnership programmes designed to accelerate the development of innovative treatments from lab to patient.
The first two National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) translational partnerships – in respiratory and joint-related inflammatory diseases – will give life science companies access to a ‘unique network of top clinical scientists’ in government-funded research facilities, leading universities and the NHS.
The government says the partnerships will also provide unparalleled access to ‘cohorts of well-characterised patients’ – cutting through red tape to speed up the recruitment and testing of NHS patients, and ensuring quicker access to life-changing new therapies.
Access to the Partnerships will be via the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI), meaning that when a company wants to collaborate, only one legal agreement is required rather than having to negotiate with each NHS Trust and University.
The new initiative represents an attempt to address a sharp decline in the UK’s reputation as a world-class location for medical research, and also reflect a growing appetite across the pharmaceutical industry to find efficiencies in its R&D model through greater collaboration with external specialists.
David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said the research partnerships would provide a unique model for collaboration between the life sciences industry, the NHS and universities. “They will be a key driver of growth and innovation, reducing the time it takes to translate research into benefits for patients and the economy,” he said.
The ABPI has welcomed the initiative, citing collaborative working with clinical academic investigators as pivotal to the changing model of drug development for the pharmaceutical industry. “Translational Research Partnerships offer an efficient and effective way for companies to work with some of the UK’s leading translational research experts through NOCRI,” said Dr Allison Jeynes-Ellis, Medical and Innovation Director, ABPI. “Companies will see great advantages to working with the partnerships and consequently they will attract ground-breaking research into the UK.”
The government will provide £1.3 million to help set up the first two partnerships; inflammatory respiratory disease and joint and related inflammatory diseases. The NIHR partnership for translational research on respiratory diseases – such as asthma, COPD, allergies, cystic fibrosis and acute lung injury – includes hospitals and universities in Northern Ireland, Oxford, Manchester, Southampton and London. The partnership in joint and related inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and synovitis, includes Barts and the London NHS Trust, the University of Birmingham, UCLH and Cambridge University.
Terms of the partnership are likely to include identifying more efficient ways of tapping into suitable patient groups for clinical trials, and unlocking funding beyond life science investment in exchange for shared intellectual property rights for any breakthrough discoveries.