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Strength of Thames Valley Life Sciences Sector highlighted in Government’s new Sector Deal

12:21 07 December in News

A second Life Sciences Sector Deal between Government and the life sciences industry, with input from digital, medical and biological technology companies, diagnostics experts and pharmaceutical companies, has been published. The sector deal has been co-authored by the University of Oxford’s Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir John Bell.

Setting out the second phase in implementing the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy it contains several references to the work, assets and companies across the Thames Valley. These include the:

  • Belgian pharmaceutical giant UCB’s decision to invest £1 billion in R&D over the next five years, including £150-200 million in a new state-of-the-art facility near their existing R&D base in Slough, which will house an early manufacturing site and a hub for UK commercial operations and support around 650 high-skilled jobs.
  • University of Reading’s investment in Thames Valley Science Park and Proton Partners International’s investment in its recently opened Rutherford Cancer Centre (located on the science park).
  • Investment by ThermoFisher Scientific, with a grant from the Wellcome Trust and UKTI, to fund the newly opened Electron Bio-imaging Centre (eBIC) at Harwell.
  • Work of the Thames Valley’s Sector Deal Group, which is chaired by Bayer and facilitated and led by the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, towards the development of a ‘global intelligence and AI hub’.
  • Scaling-up of cell and gene therapy manufacturing, including Oxford BioMedica.
  • Orion-4 ‘cholesterol lowering drug’ trial, a partnership involving the University of Oxford.

Announced in the new deal is a major study to collect a range of data from 5 million healthy volunteers. This mammoth undertaking will be the biggest study of its kind, using artificial intelligence and other new technologies to diagnose diseases earlier. The programme – Accelerating Detection of Disease – led by Sir John Bell – aims to save tens of thousands of lives through early detection of disease, using advancements in genomics and AI-powered diagnosis and brings together the NHS, industry and leading charities including Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Alzheimer’s Research UK. It will be the largest ever study of its kind collecting such a range of data from healthy volunteers over a number of years.

Other key policies are support for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) vision to become the most forward-thinking regulator for both innovative approaches to regulation and the regulation of innovative new types of products and a commitment to build a 2030 Life Sciences Skills Strategy. Investment declared in the deal includes a £75 million programme to develop new diagnostic tests by using artificial intelligence, a £50 million investment for digital pathology programmes and a £37.5 million in funding for a network of regional Digital Innovation Hubs.


Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I want the UK to have the most advanced health and care system on the planet. Technology and artificial intelligence have the potential to revolutionise healthcare by unlocking the next generation of treatments, diagnosing diseases before symptoms appear and helping patients take greater control of their own health.”

Jean-Christophe Tellier, UCB’s CEO, said: “At UCB, we are proud of our heritage in the UK and I am very pleased to announce our planned investment to support the construction of a major R&D hub in the UK, which will enable us to build upon our numerous active collaborations with UK universities, biotechs and medical research charities, and continue our successful track record of bringing innovative medicines discovered in the UK to patients globally.”

Paul Britton, CEO of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, added: “We are delighted to see the growing strength and depth of the Life Sciences industry in the region and the work being undertaken by the Thames Valley’s Sector Deal Group recognised in the Life Sciences Sector Deal 2, chaired by Bayer’s Simon Greenstreet. We look forward to this continued collaboration with our LSH business community.”