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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

Government pledges financial support for UK life sciences

by Nick Perkins

The Prime Minister grabbed more headlines this week by announcing that the Government was pledging billions of pounds for 40 hospital projects. Commentators, experts and politicians all chimed in with their viewpoints, with the consensus being that whilst it was clear that 6 hospitals would be substantially upgraded, it was less clear what exactly would be happening with the other 34.

Less talked about in the mainstream media was the promise of £200 million for the UK’s health and life sciences sector. This cash injection is intended to act as seed funding to allow UK health and life sciences organisations to mobilise private capital (around £400 million) to fund clinical trials, employ more scientists and commercialise their discoveries.

In addition, the British Business Bank (the UK’s state-owned development bank) is set to launch a dedicated fund for the health and life science sector.

The Prime Minister said: "The UK has the best universities in the world and we have a proud history of scientific discovery from penicillin to sequencing the human genome. But too often we let another country commercialise this discovery. Over 60 years ago, we saw the discovery of DNA in Cambridge by a team of international researchers. However, this research was largely commercialised in California in a $40bn company based on UK research. This must change.

"I want the lifesaving cancer treatments of tomorrow to say 'discovered and made in Britain'. That means allowing enough late-stage capital to be mobilised so that these scientific discoveries do not have to go overseas to be commercialised."

It is important to note that some of this money could simply replace finance that will be lost when the UK loses access to life science funds from the European Investment Bank.

Boris Johnson’s announcement is certainly encouraging, though short on detail. The focus on UK health and life science organisations seeking funding from outside sources is interesting, as this is something that Brain Tumour Research urges our Centres of Excellence to do in order to bolster their sustainability. For example, we were delighted that our Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London received a large grant from the Barts Charity earlier this year.

The Government’s proposal, which focuses on the role of private capital, contrasts starkly with Labour’s recent plans for access to medicines, which was based upon the need for more government involvement.

The challenge for the brain tumour community will be to navigate between these two political poles to achieve what is best for patients and their families. Brain Tumour Research will work with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours and our campaigners to make sure our voices are heard.

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