In an ever-changing pharmaceutical industry, both in terms of innovation and R&D, as well as from a business and funding perspective, the subject of strategic development and tactics to boost productivity was firmly on the agenda at November’s Pharma Integrates.

Within the UK, the life sciences sector attracted a record £2.2bn investment in 2018. With Brexit looking increasingly likely (and now confirmed for the end of January 2020), panellists tackled this thorny issue in terms of the potential loss of talent, research funds and investment access and its impact on the industry. A key point regarding funding was raised by Tom Weaver, CEO of PetMedix, stating that UK investors needed to capitalise more in start-ups and SMEs rather than just focusing on big pharma. Richard Butt, CEO of Apollo Therapeutics, went on to add that a strong, bottom-up approach as well as quality of science would attract outside investment, regardless of the UK’s relationship to the EU.

The role of the NHS post-Brexit was also a hot topic, with the panel discussing whether a more open and adaptive NHS would help early adoption of innovation, and whether this change could be more patient driven.

Having established the importance of embracing innovation and new strategies, the focus moved to the issue of increased failure rates and the rising costs of developing new drugs (almost £2bn on average). Could strategic relationships across the value chain accelerate the rate of innovation and decrease these early failure rates? The panel certainly agreed with this sentiment, with Christian Jones, CCO of Nanoform, commenting that being more open about external collaboration is important, with big pharma and SMEs needing each other to be successful. PsiOxus Therapeutics’ COO Priya Mande also noted the increasing complexity of the IP landscape, which can prove challenging when involving third parties.

One area which relies on seamless collaboration to be effective is the supply chain, which is critical in fast-tracking advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) to patients. Sheena Behn, Global Operations VP of AstraZeneca, highlighted that the biggest challenge to delivering ATMPs was cost, therefore improving the supply chain will reduce costs and get products to consumers more quickly. The panel agreed that technology played an important role in this, with ACG’s CEO Ettore Cucchetti adding that whilst the technology was there, it was vital that the industry viewed it as a change for the better rather than something disruptive.

How can these key relationships be advanced? Steve Barr, VP of Business Development at SK biotek, said that the key to better innovation is to incentivise collaboration, and that strategic relationships require an interdependency on both parties and a mutual balance of risk and reward, arguing that this isn’t currently demonstrated in the industry between pharma companies and CDMOs. Thermo Fisher’s Senior Director of European Business Development Steven Facer agreed, saying that taking relationships with large pharma companies to the next level was a challenge. On a more positive note, however, it was revealed that Eli Lilly has invested almost $1.3bn across venture funds globally to get strategic insight into new technologies and to increase ease of access to innovations.

One way to incentivise collaboration would be to streamline the process, focusing on increasing speed to market, decreasing attrition and encouraging the development of new therapies. How can this be achieved? Sosei Heptares’ Associate Director, Cliona Macsweeney, had a simple solution: a focused approach, communication and trust.

With the UK life sciences industry facing uncertain times, having the right strategy in place will be essential. At our Bio Integrates event in May, we will look at a range of issues, including the state of the nation’s political landscape, new sources of funding and supply chain control. Why not join us? Register now for a discounted rate.