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Health Secretary Matt Hancock Announces Plans to Transform UK Life Sciences Sector

In a recent speech given at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's annual conference, Matt Hancock - the UK's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care - announced government plans to invest £37 million into Britain's life science sector.

Official portrait of Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP by Richard Townshend is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Hancock pledged to make the UK a global leader in medicine manufacturing and to grow British businesses while also encouraging investment.

This promise was made in light of the significant progress that the UK's life sciences sector has made during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent vaccine rollout. To take advantage of this incredible momentum and to fuel further growth in this sector, Hancock announced bumper investments that he hopes will make the UK "a life sciences superpower".



How will the money be used?

The £37 million that has been pledged for genomics projects and data-driven initiatives will hopefully benefit patients through improved research, treatment, care and decision-making from key stakeholders.

£17 million of the total £37 million will be given to Genomics England projects that support the implementation of the Genome UK strategy to help explore the potential value of several studies, including:

  • Newborn sequencing

  • Contributing to the increase in data from ethnic minorities in genomic cohorts and data sets

  • Supporting a new approach to cancer diagnosis

In his speech, Hancock explained that new support for the UK Functional Genomics Initiative will help to better our understanding of how genetic changes cause disease. As a result, genomic sequencing will be used as part of everyday diagnosis and treatment, giving doctors the tools they need to make more informed clinical decisions, deliver faster diagnoses, and provide the best possible treatments.

The remaining £20 million will be invested into initiatives that harness UK health data for life sciences research, aiming to make the UK the most advanced and data-enabled clinical research environment in the world. Initiatives include:

  • Clinical trials and funding to develop new vaccines, medicines and health technologies

  • Studies supporting the earlier detection of disease


What Hancock said

The Health Secretary stated that he was "determined to make it quicker and easier to set up and deliver the high-power clinical trials we need".

He also expressed his hope that the new investment would help to "bring medicines to market safer and faster".

The government's main aims for this sector are "better research, better treatment, better clinical decision-making, and more lives saved, and lives improved. That," said Hancock, "is the mission of the life sciences."

From here, the Health Secretary reaffirmed his commitment to supporting free trade and global exports, and his plan to make the UK the number one place for life science businesses to conduct their operations.

"My message to would-be investors in UK life sciences is this: nowhere in the world will you find a government that is more committed to you, and nowhere will you find a government more committed to free trade and contract law. The life sciences industry is global by nature. It depends on a huge collaboration, internationally, on international supply chains - maybe more than any other industry.

"But we know, and I believe fundamentally, that the best way to protect our supply chains is not protectionism; it’s openness. I want to make crystal clear Britain’s unshakeable commitment to free trade and contract law – a covenant on life sciences, if you like, that gives those who want to invest and build their businesses in the UK the assurance they need that you can export the medicines made here to your destination market.

"We want to match this commitment with powerful incentives. We’ve established the new Medicines and Diagnostics Manufacturing Transformation Fund as a model for how we can do this, offering capital grants to encourage manufacturing, including large-scale manufacturing. [...] I want us to make sure our offer is so good that it would be an impossible choice not to invest and locate in the UK."

- Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care


Life science careers

The global fight against COVID-19 has prompted a lot of people to consider a career in the life sciences, and the recent funding announcement should serve as further encouragement.

Thanks to this new investment, Britain's life sciences sector is likely to make great strides in the very near future. At HRS, we help talented life scientists to find rewarding roles that enable them to make a real difference - click the link below to browse the latest vacancies from some of the UK's top life science employers.

Life Science Jobs >