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Clusters drive global excellence in life sciences

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Neelam Patel

CEO, MedCity

COVID-19 has driven collaboration on an unprecedented scale. Life sciences clusters are at the heart of this and need sustained support to thrive, showcase and drive global excellence.

The UK life sciences sector has risen to address the challenges of this extraordinary time by instantly refocussing efforts and resources to tackle the pandemic, with innovation and partnership at the heart of a united commitment across clusters and nations worldwide.

Clusters drive powerful collaboration

As a cluster, London and the Greater South East of England is a world leader in health and life sciences.

The global pandemic has now driven collaboration on an unprecedented scale by rapidly joining up components of the research ecosystem.

The London COVID-19 Alliance, set up by MedCity with the city’s world-leading universities, research institutes and industry, has united to offer a collective response.

The need for academic, industry and health system alliance, and the UK’s strength in this area, continues to make us a global leader in life sciences.

Alliance members including King’s College London, Imperial College London, University College London and Queen Mary’s University of London have pooled together to redeploy laboratories, equipment and scientists.

The Alliance’s response on testing has fed into the national effort to tackle COVID-19.

Meanwhile, cross-sector collaboration is driving significant developments in treatment. The OxVent group, comprising scientists, clinicians, engineers and medical technology manufacturers from King’s College London, University of Oxford and Smith+Nephew mobilised quickly in response to COVID-19, developing the OxVent ventilator, which can be produced at speed and scale, at significantly lower cost than alternatives.

Maintaining the UK’s status as a global powerhouse for life sciences also relies on teamwork across clusters.

Through our close working relationship with the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), covering a joint population of 34 million between us, we forge links in specialist fields.

The Advanced Therapies Network for example, aims to bring expert communities together, leveraging deeper innovation across regions and societies.

With joint funding from Research England, MedCity and the NHSA are also partnering on an international stage, promoting inward investment and partnerships across Japan, South Korea, Israel, the Commonwealth Alliance and China.

As the champion for our regional cluster, MedCity acts as an expert, neutral and non-political vehicle to facilitate partnerships across the globe.

Clusters are uniquely placed to draw on collective assets and nurture long-term global partnerships that advance scientific innovation and excellence worldwide.

Excellence requires investment

COVID-19 has accelerated joined up working in the life sciences community. This is vital to successfully tackling both this pandemic and the big shared global health and care challenges of today and the future.

In turn, the need for academic, industry and health system alliance, and the UK’s strength in this area, continues to make us a global leader in life sciences.

For this legacy to live beyond the pandemic, the Government must continue a relentless pursuit of excellence by investing in UK life science, research and development.

The time is now to secure the future of the UK’s vital life sciences clusters to showcase and drive this world-leading excellence, particularly as we forge new international trade deals.

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