Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP writes about plans to map the DNA of over 100,000 people
When you meet Les, you cannot help but be moved by his charisma and force of personality. It did not take him long to convince me that the present system to get drugs to patients is far too slow. Access to medicine is a hugely important campaign that I am only too happy to get behind.
There have been a series of encouraging Government announcements of late. A year on from the launch of the Life Sciences Strategy there has been huge investment in the sector. I was pleased to hear that there will be a further £100m of new money committed to keeping Britain at the forefront of this vital industry.
The Life Sciences Strategy report found that:
- The UK has generated more than £1bn of private sector investment in the industry over the past 12 months.
- GlaxoSmithKline are to build their first new manufacturing plant in almost 40 years
- And there has been £294m worth of investment through the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UK RPIF) from businesses and charities.
Especially relevant is the £25m leveraged in from the private sector to help facilitate the development of new drugs and bridge the, so-called, ‘Valley of Death’. The ‘Valley of Death’ being the huge cost and time required to get a new drug to market that so regularly prevents new treatments.
We also had the announcement that up to 100,000 patients with rare diseases are to have their entire genetic code sequenced; the aim is to give doctors a better understanding of patients' genetic make-up and therefore find better treatments. Quite the task considering that one human genome contains three billion base pairs.
Many charities and campaigners have welcomed the move, as do I. However, though a critical step, we cannot be complacent. That is why campaigns like Access to Medicine are so important. Investment, DNA mapping, and a new manufacturing plant are all encouraging but there is still more to be done; and we must keep up the pressure.
Whilst DNA mapping may, down the line, offer improved treatments to those with serious illnesses, it does not change the immediate fact that many are still denied drugs that could help them.
Baroness Masham raised this issue in a recent debate in the House of Lords, where she spoke passionately on the expense of drug development and how it can take more than 10 years and cost more than £1 billion to bring a new drug to market. I entirely support her calls for more clarity from the Government on how the Life Sciences Strategy will speed up the drug approval process. There needs to be tangible results; not just warm words.
I myself continue to seek to raise the issue in the House of Commons. Fundamentally this is about choice. Giving patients the choice to fight their disease in whatever way they can, I appeal to the Government to help me in pursuing that aim.