The benefits of data for the Life Sciences sector

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On the 22nd January, onefourzero attended GK Strategy’s Life Sciences Sector Deal event, which assessed the second Life Sciences Deal published at the end of 2018.

For those unfamiliar with the area, Life Sciences sector deals are intended to promote collaboration between pharmaceutical and health tech sectors, charities, government agencies and the NHS. This is to help position the UK as a leader in pioneering treatments and medical technologies, ensuring the improvement of patients’ lives and to drive economic growth. These deals involve investment from private and charitable sectors and commitments from the government in both research and development.

The second sector deal introduced several initiatives in order to create an ecosystem that will encourage incoming investment for the UK market – with high targets but a clear and viable plan the aim is to put the UK on the map as the world’s innovative leader in biotechnology.

The Importance of Data

The main theme stressed throughout the deals is the sharing of data. By increasing collaboration between NHS organisations, this would provide a greater pool of knowledge which is easily accessible, reducing the need to make multiple requests to multiple different organisations to acquire patient information.

However, the idea is that this repository of knowledge would also be available to organisations within the pharmaceutical and health tech sectors, not just for groups within the NHS. This knowledge could help shape strategy and guide research for Pharmaceutical and MedTech innovators.

For example, a large genome database could allow the modelling of demand for diseases based off the patient information, whether the genomes might indicate a large population may be susceptible to a specific illness. By predicting any potential increases in future demand, this could allow for early prioritization and preparation for outbreaks and reduce the likelihood of any service strains.

UK search demand for heart disease over the last 24 months, has been used as an example.

By breaking down search demand into specific regions, it is possible to identify areas of high demand and high growth in demand for certain illnesses. While London predictably has the highest volumes of searches for “heart disease” and other related terms, the East Midlands has recorded the highest increase in search demand.

Growing online search demand is indicative of increasing interest around heart disease which could make the East Midlands a key area to target. This is an area of increasing awareness around heart disease and may signify a growing population of individuals affected by heart disease, whether that is directly or indirectly.

Participation in Health Research and Clinical Trials

A key initiative mentioned within the second sector deal is the commitment to sequence 1 million whole genomes in the UK within the next 5 years, including 500,000 through the NHS in addition to the 500,000 in the UK Biobank project. Increases to participation for health research and clinical trials would certainly aid in achieving this figure.

Research from onefourzero indicates that between 2015 to 2017, searches for clinical trials decreased year on year, suggesting a declining interest in participation for medical trials. However, volumes have shown a slight recovery over the last 12 months with demand volumes increasing by 1% after 2 years of decline.

The trend as a whole over the last 4 years may not be encouraging, the last 12 months could predict an upturn in fortune for health research participation in the future.

Additionally, over the last year, traffic towards the official portal of the NHS clinical trials page has increased at a similar rate to market demand. Ideally an increasing rate of search demand for “clinical trials” and other related terms, would result in the NHS website capturing traffic at a greater rate as well.

Assuming conversion rate is preserved, higher volumes of website visits are likely to indicate higher volumes of health research participation.

What does this mean for investment?

Amidst Brexit, the Life Sciences sector may be one of few with a level of certainty. These deals were created to place the UK as a world leader in health innovation and regardless of the outcome of Brexit, it was made clear that these deals were always likely to be implemented, with the success of the Life Sciences sector considered vital for continued prosperity. Indeed, the Office of Life Sciences was one of few organisations that did not see a cut in budget or redeployment of staff to other ministries.

Furthermore, it was outlined that one of the Life Sciences priorities was the acceleration of NHS uptake by having a single front door for which innovators could knock on to get help getting products into the NHS. Should this happen, it could be extremely beneficial for innovators by providing greater, more lucrative deals that could span a national basis than by regional trust.

For investors this can be considered as good news. Despite the uncertainty brought on by Brexit, both Pharma sectors and Health tech sectors may continue to be attractive investments.

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