abpi logoPharmaceutical companies are increasingly working in partnership with other firms, academia and catapults through collaborative models, in the search to discover and develop new medicines, says a new report.

The research and development (R&D) sourcebook from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Open for Innovation: UK Biopharma R&D Sourcebook 2016reveals how this step change towards collaborative working and open innovation – a contrast to the older model of closed corporate research and development labs – continues to support the UK economy.

The report reveals that the pharmaceutical industry in the UK continues to be the highest spending business sector on R&D, investing £4.2 billion in 2015 – equating to a fifth of all UK business research and development spending.

The latest figures demonstrate how pharmaceutical organisations have increased their absolute level of investment in collaborative and outsourced drug discovery in the UK during the last 5 years, with collaborations showing particular strength in oncology and rheumatology.

As well as a change to investment models, the sourcebook shows an ongoing change in focus of research into new medicines. Projects and investments increasingly address unmet need, such as rare diseases and cancer, and the UK shows great strength in both of these areas.

Dr Virginia Acha, Executive Director, Research, Medical and Innovation at the ABPI, said: “We are in a period of great change, not least with the UK embarking on a journey outside of the EU, but also as an industry. It is therefore vital for the future discovery and development of medicines that we continue to collaborate and explore outside of our companies, industry and sector. By focusing on open innovation, this sourcebook aims to shed light on the complex, changing face of the pharmaceutical industry.”

Dr Neil Weir, Senior Vice President of Discovery UCB and Chair of the ABPI Innovation Board, contributed to the sourcebook and commented in his introduction: “The government has announced the intention to use the forthcoming industrial strategy to mark our path forward for the UK, particularly given the decision to leave the European Union. We believe that life sciences should be central to that industrial strategy, and that critical to that strategy will be exploration about how the UK can be a global leader in the practices that will help us to be open for innovation.”

The sourcebook considers four key areas:

Global health and the role of biopharma

  • Share spent on pharmaceuticals has declined across Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries
  • UK invests the lowest percentage of healthcare expenditure on pharmaceuticals
  • UK market share for products launched in the previous 5 years is the lowest in OECD but the share did increase in 2015.

Investing in innovation

  • The industry spent £4.2 billion in the UK on R&D in 2015, an increase in investment of 8%
  • Pharmaceutical R&D spend represents 20% of all business expenditure on R&D in the UK in 2015
  • Been a substantial growth in anticancer and immunomodulators in the share of investment, as well as tackling unmet including areas for rare diseases and anti-infectives.

Driving clinical research to deliver medicines

  • Experimental medicines has been a focus for investment in the UK and the UK is competitive for experimental medicine clinical trials within Europe, a close second to Germany.
  • The UK leads Europe on Phase I clinical trials, and is competitive in Phase II and Phase III, closely behind leaders Germany
  • The UK remains a competitive site for research in oncology (second to Spain and on par with Germany and France) and the central nervous system, where the UK is first in Europe after a sharp upturn since 2014.

Collaborating for innovation

  • The UK has seen an increase in partnerships between industry and a wide range of universities, and pharmaceutical companies have continued to invest in the skills of its employees, including a 106% increase in the numbers of apprenticeships
  • Collaborative research between the industry and UK organisations is particularly strong in oncology and rheumatology, reflecting UK academic strength
  • UK academic organisations collaborate with pharmaceutical researchers all over the world, including the US and Europe, attracting investment and collaboration to the UK.

In addition to the core data, the guest essays provide further detail on how new collaborative models are working. James Wilsdon, Professor of Research Policy at the University of Sheffield, explores the policies and incentives that drive academic-industry collaboration and David Roblin, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Scientific Translation at the Francis Crick Institute, discusses their unique approach to open innovation.