UK adds £175m funding to clinical research recovery drive

by Stephen Riddle

The UK government has made an additional £175 million ($212 million) in funding available for its push to make the country a go-to location for clinical research, adding to £200 million promised in March to strengthen the national data infrastructure.

The new money has been announced to coincide with the publication of a new three-year strategic plan aimed at recovering the UK’s capacity to deliver research following the pandemic, increasing national capacity for clinical research, and improving access to clinical trials for NHS patients.

Part of the plan includes a pledge to “streamline and strengthen the regulatory environment to ensure faster approval, set-up and delivery of studies,” according to the new document, which also points to increased investment in “digitally focused trials.”

Overall, the intention is to allow clinical trials to take place more quickly with a strengthened workforce and improved technology, helping patients take part virtually, it said.

The strategy and new funding has been well received by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), whose director of research – Jennifer Harris – said: “Today’s plan is a positive step towards getting the UK’s clinical research ecosystem back on track.”

She added that “tackling the ongoing challenges created by COVID-19 is a priority for both industry and NHS and is vital if we are to kickstart important research into new medicines and vaccines.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the strategy marks the second phase of the government’s efforts to improve clinical research, and will build on work already done, including halving the approval times for new clinical trials.

It also pointed to the recent launch of a UK-wide professional accreditation scheme for clinical research practitioners to help double the size of the workforce.

£150 million in funding is coming from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), with the remaining £25 million from other sources in the UK’s pandemic Recovery, Resilience and Growth (RRG) programme.

“We are bolstering clinical research to improve healthcare for patients across the UK, by providing our world-leading experts with the tools needed to deliver cutting edge scientific developments, grow the workforce and harness digital innovations,” said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

The new plan follows an ABPI report published last year which suggested that the UK’s clinical research sector was recovering slower than its European peers after the relaxation of pandemic restrictions.

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