Publication Growth and productivity Health and Care 16 December, 2022

Boosted by the vaccine: lessons from COVID-19 for the future of the life sciences

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The COVID-19 pandemic showcased the great strengths of the UK’s life sciences ecosystem. With regulators, academics, private firms, and the NHS pulling together, the UK was able to develop an effective vaccine much more quickly than many - including Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty - had ever thought possible.

This paper explores the factors that drove this success and identifies what lessons should be taken forward - from the need for sustained regulatory flexibility, to the essential role of data sharing and access to growth capital - to ensure the UK retains its place at the forefront of an ever more competitive global life sciences industry.

The report presents five policy recommendations:

  •  NHS England should complete a rapid review of best practice in the four existing NHS innovation hubs, to inform a two-year trial of hubs in each Integrated Care System across England
  • The Government should create an annual re-pricing mechanism for services provided by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to place the regulator on a stable, long-term financial footing
  • NHS Digital should develop a new data-sharing pathway within the NHS App, including processes for users to opt-in to sharing or trial participation and for researchers to contact eligible patients
  • The Government should introduce a package of measures to significantly enhance the UK’s growth capital offering in the life sciences, centred around a variant of the successful French Tibi scheme
  • The Government should support the development of new technologically-specialised growth clusters, by focusing Investment Zones on academic institutions with a track record of exemplary research in the life sciences

Our work on Boosted by the vaccine was kindly supported by Moderna.