The UK is on an ambitious journey to be a centre for precision medicine, moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and as a tool in achieving health equity.
Precision medicine is a rapidly growing market, and the UK is well placed to help businesses design and deliver solutions.
The UK’s precision medicine ecosystem offers:
- excellent research capabilities
- unparallel research data
- leading and expert infrastructure
- a supportive business environment and policies to enable the growth of this dynamic industry
Areas where businesses can work with the UK in precision medicine include:
Research and stratification
The UK is one of the best locations in the world to develop and commercialise technologies to better understand and stratify both inherited and acquired disease.
By applying the latest genomics advances and healthcare technology, it’s possible to improve early diagnosis and prevention of disease. This incorporates the use of the UK’s unparalleled research data to uncover new insights.
Early and better diagnosis through diagnostic screening, imaging, companion diagnostics and digital pathology is at the epicentre of effective precision medicine. This means expanding screening in early life, undertaking targeted screening, and developing diagnostic devices and tests.
The UK is scaling up its capabilities in these areas, creating opportunities for innovative diagnostics companies to thrive in the UK.
Precision treatments that are guided by diagnostics will treat illness more effectively. The UK offers a unique national infrastructure for advanced and precision therapies. It provides end-to-end support to industry for research, development, manufacture, licencing and delivery, and introduction into the NHS.
The global precision medicine market was valued at about £46 billion in 2019, with the UK alone making up £2.4 billion. And the market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
There are many reasons to invest in the UK. For example, the UK landscape creates an excellent opportunity for overseas investors for research and application, with an ageing, ethnically diverse and multicultural population, supportive government policies, and robust regulatory expertise and standards.
The UK’s healthcare and life sciences sector is poised to welcome precision medicine innovation through specialised precision medicine infrastructure in a national health system, technological development support, and established innovation and clinical trial infrastructure.
The UK has a world-leading academic and science base with access to skilled people, and an established industry and value chain, working alongside an active research and patient charity sector.
Key UK assets
National assets such as the UK Biobank and Genomics England have international recognition, but DIT can help to connect investors to hotspots for precision medicine in the UK, such as in:
Scotland has fantastic clinical data, researchers and facilities, industry partners and centres of excellence, with links into NHS Scotland for real world application. The University of Glasgow and local NHS have partnered with industry and public sector to create The Living Laboratory for precision medicine next to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus.
Northern Ireland is a hub for high-throughput genomics, digital pathology and big data analytics. Belfast’s Precision Medicine Centre of Excellence at Queen’s University Belfast, Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre and Future Medicines Institute – all collaborate with industry and the NHS.
The region is a hub for experimental and translational medicine and has one of the UK’s three Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres. The West Midlands’ unique health data platforms include more than 20 years of longitudinal data over 1.2 million records, linked across 153 acute care hospitals.
The region is also a world-class centre for precision medicine, clinical trials, and diagnostic imaging and digital leadership.
South East England – Stevenage
The cell and gene therapy cluster in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, has become the largest in Europe. Located between London and Cambridge, it’s a global hub for R&D and manufacturing, and home to the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, both of which offer state-of-the-art specialist facilities to facilitate the discovery and manufacture of cell and gene therapy products.
Clinical research, genomic and health data capabilities make the UK a highly effective and efficient place in which to test and trial new technologies for the most important healthcare challenges – creating better value for industry and early access for NHS patients.
The UK’s many Centres of Excellence offer cutting-edge research and expertise in precision medicine and diagnostics. They help companies to design, research and develop their precision medicine solutions - integrated with an active, at-scale healthcare system.
The UK also boasts Health Data Research Hubs, some of which focus on precision medicine opportunities.
As part of its aim to bring the UK to the forefront of global innovation, the government has committed to increase public spending by £22 billion by 2025, putting the UK on track for 2.4% of GDP being spent on R&D by 2027.
Business and government support
The UK government was an early investor in precision medicine and has a consistent track record in working alongside the charity/third sector to fund programmes, infrastructure, and research.
It founded and expanded the UK Biobank, establishing Genomics England to run the 100,000 Genomes Project as the first and largest study of its kind in the world, and has embedded whole genome sequencing into routine clinical care in the NHS.
In 2020 it published a new genomics strategy: Genome UK, to set out how the UK will transform genomic healthcare over the next 10 years.
Government-funded infrastructure such as Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres, digital pathology and radiology centres of excellence, as well as MedTech and In Vitro Diagnostics Cooperatives, have been established to work with industry on accelerating the development and introduction of precision medicine technologies.
Thermo Fisher Scientific
USA-based Thermo Fisher Scientific is collaborating with Genomics England via its Clinical Next-Generation Sequencing and Oncology segment to investigate the use of liquid biopsies in cancer . This will test blood-sample plasmas for their suitability for next-generation sequencing-based testing.
The analysis also established the capacity of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Oncomine Pan-Cancer Cell-Free Assay to identify the presence of cancer.
Germany-based Qiagen is an international molecular testing company. It has a Centre of Excellence to develop companion diagnostics for precision medicine and a hub for diagnostics delivery based in Manchester. It partnered with Health Innovation Manchester to develop a leading genomics campus in the heart of Manchester’s health innovation district.
The NHS: genomic medicine at scale and CAR-T treatment approval
The UK’s National Health System (NHS) was the first in the world to introduce a national genomic medicine service as standard of care, including the introduction of whole-genome sequencing technologies.
Genomic technologies can enable earlier diagnosis, more targeted treatments, and support interventions to prevent disease.
The NHS was also the first health system in Europe to introduce CAR-T, a breakthrough advanced cell-therapy. Through a network of Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres, it’s also working with industry to introduce a rapidly expanding class of personalised therapies to patients.