Tony Davis, commercial director of the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network
Tony Davis, commercial director of the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network, explains why he thinks this region’s healthcare and life sciences sectors must do more to highlight their achievements and their goals.
What is unique about life sciences and medical technology in the West Midlands and who needs to know about it?
In the government’s recent industrial strategy green paper, life sciences and medical technologies were identified as a key sectors for driving economic growth. Both the devolution-inspired West Midlands Combined Authority and the government-endorsed Midlands Engine have published strategies which also identify the importance of the sectors.
However, many regions in the UK consider life sciences and medical technologies to be important sectors of their regional economy, so what makes the West Midlands stand out from the crowd?
To me, there is a significant number of reasons why this region is well placed to be considered the ‘capital of the UK’ in terms of accelerated access to medicines, treatments and medical technology.
These include the development of the West Midlands Genomic Medicine Centre, the trials acceleration programmes, the Institute for Translational Medicine, the University of Birmingham BioHub, Keele University’s MED Innovation Centres, Serendip - the WMAHSN’s digital health incubator and accelerator - and a whole raft of existing and planned programmes and initiatives,
So who needs to know about this unique proposition? Firstly, the citizens of the West Midlands. As a region, it is crucial that we get the message out to the public that by engaging in research and development, trials and evaluations, and by consenting to the appropriate and secure sharing of their data with the NHS, West Midlands citizens will benefit by having accelerated access to cutting edge treatments, medicines and technology.
This access will improve their engagement with health services and most importantly, produce positive healthcare outcomes, improving the quality of life for individuals and their families.
Secondly, we need to let life sciences and healthcare industries know that the West Midlands is the number one destination for the rigorous, time and resource efficient testing and evaluation of their technology, treatment, diagnostic or drug.
By working and investing in the West Midlands, national and global life sciences and healthcare industries will be benefiting from access to a regional population that is not only the size of Scotland’s, but ethnically diverse - a population which is stratified and understandable through being able to access a number of regional data lakes. But more importantly, if we can get the above message out and produce a population that is educated and knowledgeable regarding the benefits in engaging in trials and evaluations, we will ultimately produce a population that is innovation receptive and actively ‘pulling’ new treatments, technologies and medicines into service for the ultimate benefit of all.
The West Midlands has invested in developing capacity and creating centres of excellence in life sciences and medical research which are on a par with many parts of the UK. As a region, we have now invested in additional capacity for supporting translation and acceleration of that research which is truly unique in a UK perspective.
However, if we can clearly articulate our objectives to the public and to our industry partners and ultimately create an environment of rapid uptake and adoption of technologies and treatments, we will have an offer that is globally significant and unique.