At the start of the year, we predicted 2017 would be a great year for the life sciences sector, and we haven’t been disappointed. Here’s a round-up of some of our highlights of the year:
Early cancer detection and monitoring techniques took a huge leap forward this year, with the launch of a new non-invasive screening test, which uses blood to detect cancer mutations.
CancerIntercept™ by Pathway Genomics is a liquid biopsy which can detect and monitor tumour DNA in high-risk but otherwise healthy patients. It uses advanced DNA analysis to identify small DNA fragments that are shed from cancer cells and released into the blood stream. The DNA fragments are then tested for the presence of 96 of the most frequently occurring mutations for nine different cancer genes (including lung, breast, ovarian, colorectal cancers, pancreatic and melanoma) and removes the need to take invasive biopsies from the tumour itself.
With the liquid biopsy technology, it will be possible to improve detection and therefore survival rates, as more cancers can be found and treated earlier. It can also be used to accurately monitor the progress of patients undergoing treatment or in remission.
The pharmaceutical industry is evolving and the ‘one size fits all’ approach to drug development has been increasingly making way for greater investment in genomics-based R&D in 2017.
Pharmacogenomics – using genomic information to study individual responses to drugs – is growing at a rapid pace and as a global industry, its expected to be worth in the region of $11.94bn by 2024.
While we can’t be sure how long the pipeline will be from R&D to personalised medicine available on the NHS, the fact that the major drug companies are on board with the use of genomics – both to bring drugs to market quicker, and to develop more effective and ‘tailored’ treatments – is a very positive advancement for the medical world and patients alike.
Investment in UK life sciences
Last year may have been all doom and gloom about the future of the UK life sciences industry in the wake of Brexit, but 2017 has certainly been much more upbeat on the subject of investment.
GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Merck have all made firm commitments to the UK, keeping talent and resources in the country, and ensuring the progress being made in the field of life sciences and genomics is not lost to the continent post-Brexit.
In January, the Government also announced a cash injection for the industry, in the form of an additional £4.7bn by 2020-21 in research and development funding (through the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund). This will be shared with other major STEM industries, like space exploration and clean energy, but its still very positive news for British biotech’s.
Dr Patrick Valance appointed Chief Scientific Adviser
The former R&D president for GlaxoSmithKline was recently announced as the Government’s new Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government’s Office for Science. Dr Valance will be responsible for providing scientific advice to the Prime Minister and advising the Government on aspects of policy on science and technology.
Leaving GSK in March 2018, Dr Valance takes a wealth of industry experience into his Government role and will be able to share his expertise in genomics and collaborative working within the medical, research and pharma communities on a bigger stage, which will surely benefit the British pharma and life sciences sector.
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