UK Life Sciences 2020–inspirational, aspirational, forging ahead

With a new decade upon us, we finally have some clarity and go-forward in the UK’s political system. Meanwhile, the UK life sciences environment has continued to go from strength to strength despite three years of Brexit purgatory. Clear signals are emanating from Number 10 that science and life sciences are viewed as vital to the future health and wealth of the country. 

In his Foreword to the UK Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Update two-years on, Sir John Bell highlights substantial progress made. And an exciting picture of momentum emerges, stemming from strong collaboration between the key elements of the UK ecosystem–industry, government, the research community in our world leading academic institutions, and the NHS.

The distinctive attributes of the UK are straightforward–a large single payer health system, unique sets of increasingly data-rich health records, a globally-distinguished science base, wonderful assets in genomics and cohorts of patients, a strong skills base, and, importantly, regulatory and ethical systems continually setting standards. 

The UK has an ambition to transform the health system to one that identifies disease earlier, integrates digital innovations, and uses risk and stratification to strategically improve public health. This aspiration is appreciable and serves as an attractive agenda for global life science organisations. 

As Novartis CEO, Vas Narasimhan, commented amid opening a new Novartis UK HQ in White City and the exciting inclisiran trials which mark new thinking, “ We see the UK, with its deep commitment to life sciences, as an attractive place to reimagine medicine. ” 

Reengergized by the political clarity now at hand, we are forging an integral role for BELS in all of this. Our immediate priority is to deliver a new web site, which will reflect a subtle shift in branding from British Expats in Life Sciences to British Educated Life Scientists for two reasons:  The new name better reflects the make-up of the BELS community, which includes numerous nationals of other countries who trained at some stage in our academic system and (hopefully) developed warm feelings towards the UK. And it moves us away from negative perceptions of the word “expat” about which we have always felt a little uncomfortable. Our moniker “BELS” will remain the same, along with our URL ( www.BELSconnector.org ) which reflects our central tenet of connecting .

Once our web site is renovated, we will commence a Membership Drive. Support from the BELS community is crucial to our ability to run BELS and launch new programmes such as a board/advisory registry, a speaker’s bureau, rekindling BELS events in key life science locales (by popular demand!), while also investigating the potential for an investor portal. The community will continue to receive our news flow via BELS Brief Clips , but those who take up membership will not only be throwing your support behind what we consider to be our noble efforts but equally also can seek assistance from BELS for UK connections and to each other. Make 2020 the year you hop on board!

Nigel Gaymond, BELS Executive Chairmanngaymond@BELSconnector.org

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