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PM told of need to accelerate NHS adoption of new medical products

By Mike Cowley

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Prime Minister Theresa May has been advised that unless the booming life sciences sector is given better access to help the NHS with innovative products, not only will the Health Service continue to suffer but some UK medical companies will struggle to stay in the UK as they grow.

The message was delivered by Bernard Ross of Sky Medical Technology, a leader in deep vein thrombosis (DVT) prevention and wound healing, who was part of a delegation of members from Bionow in a round table discussion chaired by the PM. Bionow is the voice of the Northern life science sector which contributes £10.9bn to the UK economy and employs 38,000 people across 1000 companies.

He explained further: “If the NHS accelerates its evaluation and adoption of new medical products UK medical companies will be encouraged by their investors to stay and grow in the UK rather than be pressurised to relocate operations overseas to markets that adopt new medical products faster.”

The comment came during a meeting chaired by the PM following her first regional cabinet meeting held at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, part of the Sci-Tech Daresbury campus, at which she launched her Government’s new Industrial Strategy consultation and announced a further £556m injection for the Northern Powerhouse.

Whereas much praise was given for tax credits and EIS schemes by attendees, she was left in no doubt about the challenges facing the life sciences sector including the need to open up the NHS market and tackle the long-term skills shortage. While the Government should continue to support businesses with grants and incentives for innovation it must also enable scale-up to turn innovation into sustainable jobs, growth and prosperity for the future.

The select nine-strong SME invite list for the discussion also included Bionow members Samantha Westgate of Perfectus Biomed, a microbiological contract testing company working in health care and Jan Rogers of Arcis Biotechnology, experts in DNA sampling, who were joined by Dr Diane Cresswell, Bionow’s Executive Director Business Development.
The venue for the high security meeting was Daresbury’s new Campus Technology Hub, a state-of-the-art advanced engineering centre, specialising in additive manufacturing, where Bionow has a presence.

All this revealed the growing importance of Bionow, which was formed almost six years ago and has built relationships with eight university sponsors and a further seven university members facilitating engagement and collaboration.

Bionow’s northern company members are consistently among the high performers in the UK and appropriate measures within the Industrial Strategy will amplify and build on the success to date:

  • Redx Pharma plc, the UK’s fastest growing biotech company which listed on AIM in 2015 raising £15m which valued the company at more than £50m. Last year it raised a further £10m and grew to 190 employees.
  • Premaitha Health which generated £2.5m in sales in 2016, the first full year of commercialisation of its IONA non-invasive prenatal test for Downs Syndrome.
  • Zilico, its Zedscan device used in the diagnosis of cervical cancer has been adopted by hospitals across the UK and has recently secured funding to develop a new device to detect oral cancer.
  • Shield Therapeutics, which began trading on the AIM market after completing a £32.5m fundraising in 2016 and the launch of Ferracru®
  • Manchester Science Partnerships, which is transforming the 400-acre former AZ site at Alderley Park into a world-class hub for the life sciences.

“Our members have shown what is possible with early stage support and we welcome that Life Sciences remains a priority sector for this Government and the Prime Minister,” says Dr Geoff Davison, CEO of Bionow.

“But the UK has not capitalised on its innovation and we are now looking to the Government to unlock opportunities to deliver growth. Routes to faster commercialisation must be found and changes to government procurement policy – specifically harnessing the purchasing power of the NHS – are needed to drive SME growth in Life Sciences.”