‘Open for Innovation’ outlines post-Brexit path

As the UK prepares to embark on a new path outside of the EU, writes Virginia Acha in the preface to a new look at the British pharma industry, it will need the best policies in place to foster a priority on innovation.

“Open for Innovation: UK Biopharma R&D Sourcebook 2016” underscores the need for fresh thinking across the industry, notes Acha, who is executive director, research, medical & innovation, at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), which commissioned the report.

Intended as a resource – thus the term “sourcebook” – “Open for Innovation” provides a snapshot of some of the key measures by which the biopharma industry develops drugs and the context in which this development takes place.

Luminaries from the industry were invited to provide perspective in a series of “Viewpoint” essays. These include “Open Science, Collaboration and Accelerated Development: Translation at the Crick,” by David Roblin, chief operating officer and director of scientific translation at the Francis Crick Institute; and “Brokers and Boundary Spanners: Will This Be the Year the UK Gets Serious About Collaboration and Innovation?” by James Wilsdon, professor of research policy and director of impact and engagement in the faculty of social sciences at the University of Sheffield.

The report’s analysis is grouped into four sections: global health and the role of biopharma; investing in innovation; driving clinical research to deliver medicine; and collaborating for innovation.

In the section focusing on clinical research, the report notes that one way to measure the industry’s progress, and its challenges, is to look at the number of clinical trial applications received by the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). According to the MHRA’s figures, the number of applications for clinical trials in the UK began to decline in 2005, reaching its lowest ebb in 2010. In recent years, however, commercial clinical trial applications have climbed back upwards and in 2015 the number received hit 842, the highest in a decade.

The report notes that experimental medicine has been a national investment priority, with the UK Clinical Research Collaboration partners dedicating more than £134 million in investment to improve infrastructure, provide funding and develop research networks.

Using Cortellis Clinical Trial Intelligence data, from Clarivate Analytics, the ABPI report clearly demonstrates the strength of the US pharma industry in driving clinical research, relative to EU countries – including the UK. In 2015, the US ran five times more industry-sponsored experimental trials than the UK, the report notes.

In Europe, however, the UK holds its own. It is a close second to Germany over the time period 2010-2015, the ABPI states, again citing Cortellis.

The Cortellis data base, which contains searchable and indexed information from more than 230,000 global clinical trials, also demonstrates that oncology was the top therapy area for experimental trials across all countries. This is no doubt a reflection of the intense global investment in the therapeutic space but also, as the ABPI notes “may reflect the fact that all oncology trials are routinely carried out in patients and not healthy volunteer studies.”

The Cortellis clinical trials data shows that the UK is competitive across Europe in a number of therapy areas and demonstrates particular expertise and experience in respiratory studies which was not a top 10 therapy area for the US.

FIGURE 1:  Top 10 experimental medicine trial therapy areas, by country (Core EU & US, 2010-2015) – excluding oncology

To read the full report from ABPI, “Open for Innovation: UK Biopharma R&D Sourcebook 2016,” click here.

To learn more about the Cortellis Clinical Trials Intelligence database, click here.