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Maintain COVID-19 collaborations to secure UK’s life sciences lead, recommends new report

Maintain COVID-19 collaborations to secure UK’s life sciences lead, recommends new report

  • The response of the UK life sciences sector to COVID-19 gives hope for the future of innovation, discovery and research, according to a new report


  • The report recommends continuing collaboration across the life sciences sector, combined with patient involvement in decision-making, to deliver enduring change to healthcare


  • Embracing digital solutions across healthcare beyond COVID-19 was found to be key to improving patient outcomes and innovation in research


London, UK, February 17, 2021: The enhanced collaboration between government, regulators, academia and the pharmaceutical industry seen in response to COVID-19 provides an opportunity to unlock the potential of the UK sciences sector, according to a new report by Novartis UK.

The pandemic has altered the daily lives of people across the world, caused global economic disruption and stretched health systems capabilities. Yet, the findings of the report highlight how the efforts to collectively address COVID-19 brought benefits to patients, with the potential to implement changes into other healthcare areas.

Challenges presented by COVID-19 resulted in unprecedented co-operative working across the UK life sciences sector. Clinical trials were initiated more quickly, existing medicines were repurposed and new ways for patients to access treatments were developed.

With the first COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out across the UK1,2, the report outlines a series of measures to help the UK healthcare sector rebuild as it moves into the next phase of the pandemic.

Chinmay Bhatt, Managing Director of Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK, Ireland and Nordics, comments: “COVID-19 and our collective response to it brought greater innovation and health service transformation than witnessed in generations. We have seen that we are stronger, more innovative and more sustainable when we work together. To overcome the substantial pressures on the health service, it is crucial that we sustain these new ways of working in the years to come.

“We are now in a unique position to revolutionise how we work. Building on the past eleven months gives us the opportunity to unlock the potential of the UK life sciences sector – enabling us to reimagine medicine and ultimately extend and improve the lives of patients across the world.”

Last week, Novartis announced its participation in a new collaboration aimed at leading the way on revolutionising oligonucleotide (short strands of synthetic DNA or RNA) medicines manufacturing. The collaboration intends to make the UK the first country in the world to deliver this pioneering production process at a large scale.

Novartis also recently announced it has signed an initial agreement to provide manufacturing capacity in Stein, Switzerland for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This is the first of multiple agreements being explored by Novartis that utilises collaboration across the pharmaceutical industry to support the global supply of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The New Possible report suggests the new ways of working that emerged during the pandemic could help to accelerate the speed of future medical discoveries and lead to more patient-centric approaches to healthcare:

  • The fast-track COVID-19 research programme established by the National Institute for Health Research programme could bring significant benefits to patients by hastening the speed at which new treatments are made available if expanded into other disease areas.
  • The pandemic highlighted the potential of working together to find new uses for existing medicines. This could be particularly valuable in rare disease research, where only five per cent of conditions currently have a licensed treatment available.4
  • Novel approaches to clinical trials that make use of technological advances, such as remote patient monitoring and courier delivery of medicines to patients’ homes, ensured continuation of some research at the start of the pandemic. Implementing these approaches beyond COVID-19 could broaden patient participation in other disease areas by increasing convenience and flexibility.
  • Harnessing the power of technology across clinical trials, service delivery and research beyond Coronavirus could remove some of the barriers to care access, accelerate innovation and offer more cost-effective approaches for healthcare providers.
  • Innovative methods of delivering care and addressing unmet patient needs may enhance the resilience of the health service, help to tackle health inequalities and support the NHS in building back better from the pandemic.

However, research also found the speed of response required at the start of the pandemic resulted in a lack of patient involvement. To drive the positive changes forward and sustain them, the report notes it is essential that patients are put at the forefront of future decision-making through partnership approaches.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said: “Patient involvement in decision-making relating to their health is really important, particularly as the health service rebuilds for the long-term. The ongoing COVID-19 emergency has shown the need to ensure the NHS and its partners are continually considering the impact of their actions on patients and involving them in decisions about their care.”

Following the publication of this report, Novartis affirmed its commitment to sustaining and developing the collaborations with the NHS, government and regulators seen during the pandemic.


The full report is available here on the Novartis UK website.

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Last Updated: 17-Feb-2021