70 years young – the ABPI Annual Conference

A key focus of this year’s annual ABPI conference, which I attended on the 26thApril, was the 70th birthdays of both the NHS and the ABPI.

As an affiliate member of the ABPI, Hayward benefits from all the latest updates in our industry, including how Brexit, or EU exit as I think we’re meant to call it these days, is affecting us.

The day started with an audacious call to vote on whether we think the NHS will exist in another 70 years. The presence of industry and healthcare partners in the room may have influenced this as the majority of hands were shown in the affirmative! I chose the third option, ‘no, but don’t want to admit it in front my colleagues’. On reflection, I do believe the NHS will exist, but it certainly can’t be sustained in its current format. We need to encourage everyone to take personal ownership of their health, practice preventative healthcare and only rely on the NHS for critical or acute crises. This could mean that many services to support people in their health management become managed by someone other than the NHS. Privatisation of healthcare (gasp!) – is it really such a bad thing? Many employers offer employees access to services to enhance their well-being: gyms, physiotherapy, medical health checks, etc. I digress … back to the topics of the day.

The early morning sessions celebrated the progress made over the last 70 years and included Nancy Devlin from the Office of Health Economics, presenting a work-in-progress report celebrating innovation in healthcare, and Keith Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult exploring evolving technology and medicines, particularly cell and gene therapies, which are expanding at a rapid pace and really seem to be the future for new therapies. I think we’ve all come to terms with the fact that the days of the blockbuster are over; now the focus is on a personalised therapeutic approach, and a clearer understanding of the role of genetics in disease development.

The next session looked ahead at building a thriving UK Life Sciences sector in a post-Brexit world. Baroness Fairhead, the Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion at the Department for International Trade, gave the UK’s political perspective and highlighted the importance of the UK’s life-sciences sector, stressing how important it is to the government to seek regulatory co-operation with the EU. In fact, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has recently reiterated the government’s desire to work closely with the EMA after the UK’s exit from the EU.

Nathalie Moll from EFPIA shared the European Industry perspective, setting out the work EFPIA is doing to ensure UK–EU cooperation on medicines regulation. Watch this space!

These presentations were followed by a lively panel discussion hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby, for which they were joined by Louise Houson, Managing Director, UK and Ireland at MSD who provided great insights from the UK pharma industry perspective. Red jackets were mandatory if you wanted to participate (in-joke of the day as all members of the panel had managed to coordinate their attire, no reference to political alliances!) so I guess my question from the audience was ignored as I was wearing orange!

After a good lunch, networking and ‘exhibition stalking’ as we like to call it, the afternoon sessions looked ahead at enhancing collaboration with the NHS and Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation talked about how we can build a thriving UK clinical research environment. One of the issues he raised that needs to be addressed is the reduction in good researchers coming to work in the UK from EU countries; this is already happening despite the promised EU ‘transition period’ and the lack of any firm final decisions on movement of people post the UK’s EU exit. I’ve already had discussions with some of the academic units with whom Hayward partners and this is indeed an effect being felt across the research community. We also benefit from a diverse work force at Hayward and would hate to see this jeopardised; variety is, after all, the spice of life.

Finally the stage was handed over to the team from DevoManc who showed us how collaboration has been rolled out for the benefit of all in Manchester via the introduction of Health Innovation Manchester, using case studies in COPD and cancer.

All in all a very informative day, an excellent download on hot topics and a chance to engage with contacts and colleagues old and (hopefully) new.

Helen Bengtsson Development Director