Digital health and genomics ‘should form new pillars of life science industry’


Three new life science industries should be established, including genomics and digital health, to keep the UK at the forefront of the field, a professor of medicine has said.

Speaking at the annual lecture of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said the new industries would be critical to the UK continuing to lead in the field of life sciences.

The three industries, genomics; digital health; and early diagnosis will come with their own regulatory challenges, Bell told 200 healthcare leaders at the event.

“Innovation in regulation fundamentally underpins the entire sector and is vital for economic growth,” he said.

“As the largest and most innovative regulator in Europe, the MHRA is crucial to the UK’s strategy.”

He told the audience at the King’s Fund in London that the MHRA has a unique opportunity to challenge the status quo in regulation and play a leading role in a life science strategy driven by academia, industry, government and the NHS.

Dr June Raine, the agency’s interim chief executive, said: “This lecture is a landmark in our regulatory evolution with the real potential to help the MHRA shape the UK’s ground-breaking life sciences strategy.

“With all parts of the life sciences eco-system working together, we can tackle some of the most significant healthcare challenges facing the world today.

“The challenge is to develop an ambitious strategy which builds on the UK’s unique assets of basic science, real world evidence and innovative regulation; a strategy which will enable innovative products to reach patients safely and much more quickly.”

A new programme from Genomics England, announced in July, placed a renewed focus on genomics in the UK. Millions of NHS patients will have their genetic information analysed and used for research into predictive medicine under the programme.

As part of the Accelerating Detection of Disease (ADD) programme, anonymised data from up to five million volunteers will be used to develop personalised treatments and diagnostic tools using artificial intelligence (AI).

The project follows the 100,000 Genomes Project, which ran from 2013 to 2018 and led to roughly one in four participants with a rare disease receiving a diagnosis.

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