13th Annual PING Conference Highlights Future of UK Pharma Industry

Industry leaders discuss new technologies, research, and investment strategies.

At this year’s Pharmaceutical Industry Network Group (PING) Conference in the UK, speakers discussed how the industry can emerge from political, economic, and health crises that have occurred in recent years. The conference, which held its 13th annual edition on June 20, dubbed itself “The Golden Age for Life Sciences Innovation.”

The UK’s Minister for Science, Research, and Innovation, George Freeman, discussed how the government planned to spend $9.4 billion (£8 billion) in life sciences research, with a goal of focusing on disease missions and closing the gap between research and adoption.

Samantha Roberts, PhD, chief executive officer of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), spoke at the conference about the evolution of the institute’s methods for evaluating new and emerging products with the goal of reaching healthcare professionals more quickly. She laid out three key areas of focus: maximizing cutting edge healthcare, updating existing guidelines into useful and usable advice, and influencing the system to help it adopt the best care.

"Attendees at this year's conference commented on how inspirational the speakers were. The UK has unique attributes with leading academic institutions, a mature and entrepreneurial life sciences industry, and a single healthcare system,” said Paul Gershlick, PING chair and partner and head of pharmaceuticals and life sciences sector. “The UK led the scientific fightback against the COVID-19 pandemic, and its unique environment bodes well for the future. This is a really exciting time, with NICE, the Accelerated Access Collaborative, and Our Future Health leading the way. It was exciting to hear at the conference how this is really a Golden Age for life sciences innovation in the UK."

Matthew Whitty, chief executive officer of the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), discussed various ways that the partnership is working to help bring treatments to patients more quickly. These steps included improving its ability for demand signaling and horizon scanning, ensuring that the UK remains a popular location for research, improving funding, adopting a spreading NICE medical diagnostics, and providing educational programs when new innovations are introduced.

Mark Bretton, chair of the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership & The LEP Network, said, “Hertfordshire LEP is very proud of its long association with PING. It sends out a clear message that Hertfordshire and the UK is a very attractive place for our diverse industry to grow."

He continued, "This didn’t happen by chance and is testament to the business environment we have all worked hard to help create. We will continue to work with businesses to help them realize their ambitions and bring opportunities to our local people and communities.”

The UK began work on a new project focused on health data with a goal of providing better models to predict diseases before they manifest in patients. Researchers will study five million patients in hopes of mapping out early signs that certain diseases are forming.

The discovery that dexamethasone, an inexpensive steroid, could reduce the number of intensive care deaths during the COVID pandemic inspired the new project. It’s estimated that over one million lives were saved by this discovery.

Tim Rea, head of early stage investments at BGF, and Alun Williams, investment director at Parkwalk Advisors, closed out the conference by discussing ways that life sciences companies can make themselves attractive to investors. The speakers, who are considered to be two of the UK’s leading institutional investors, praised the life sciences industry for its collaborative work in recent years with government, public, and private sectors.