Science scheme to beat diseases in ten-year plan

Tackling cancer, dementia and obesity are priorities in the Government’s major science plan for the next decade.

The ten-year plan for life sciences aims to follow the successful Vaccines Taskforce by cutting red tape and recruiting the private sector.

After many cancer symptoms went unreported during lockdowns, the UK Life Sciences Vision is set to focus on tests for early diagnosis.

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Following a breakthrough for dementia, when the first new drug for Alzheimer’s in nearly 20 years won approval in the US, the plan will help speed up studies to find other treatments.

Tackling cancer, dementia and obesity are priorities in the Government’s major science plan for the next decade (stock image)

It follows the launch of the Life Sciences Investment Programme, with £200million of Government money, which brings the funding for selected life sciences companies to £1billion.

It will also tackle obesity, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which has become a personal focus for Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who admitted he was ‘way overweight’ when he was hospitalised with Covid last year.

Scientists will also be supported to develop more tools to tackle mental illness, and look at ‘the underlying biology of ageing’.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: ‘The UK life sciences sector has been a beacon of hope over the past year and a half, developing diagnostics and life-saving vaccines at remarkable speed to secure our route out of the pandemic.

‘This ambitious strategy sets out how we can replicate this same scientific excellence and agility to meet today’s greatest health challenges, doing with cancer, dementia and obesity what we did with this virus – gaining the upper hand with brilliant science.’

Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala Investment Company, had already committed to invest £800 million in the UK life sciences industry.

During the pandemic, the UK was reliant on overseas companies for certain vaccine supplies and ingredients, which raised fears the EU could block exports to the UK amid a row over scarce jabs.

It will also tackle obesity, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which has become a personal focus for Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who admitted he was ‘way overweight’ when he was hospitalised with Covid last year (stock image)

Mr Kwarteng has emphasised the importance of future treatments being produced in this country, stating: ‘Crucially, we’re going to build a pro-enterprise environment where our life sciences firms can access the finance to grow, are incentivised to onshore manufacturing, and can commercialise breakthrough products right here in the UK – rather than elsewhere – as we cement the UK’s position as a science superpower.’

The vision will also look at immune therapies such as cancer vaccines and seek to maintain the UK’s position in vaccine discovery, development and manufacturing, while reducing illness and death from respiratory disease.

Professor Sir John Bell, from the University of Oxford, who co-chaired an advisory board helping to devise the strategy, said: ‘We have demonstrated throughout the Covid pandemic how effective we can be when industry, academia, government, charities and the NHS all work together.

‘If we continue to work as effectively together, we are very likely to bring great benefits to patients and also to grow our economy at pace.’

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