“The Northern Powerhouse can rival Cambridge in medical innovation” says Minister at Life Science Summit with Northern Powerhouse leaders

20th June 2016

Today business leaders, academics and scientists gathered at Manchester Science Partnerships’ Citylabs 1.0 in Manchester for a Summit with the Minister for Life Sciences and Health Technology to discuss ways to develop the North of England as a global hub for 21st Century medical research.

Called by George Freeman MP, Minister for Life Sciences at the Department of Health and Department for Business, and convened by The Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), the Summit looked at ways to attract more investment into the North of England and to provide NHS patients faster access to innovative drugs and treatments.

George Freeman MP, Minister for Life Sciences said: “The Northern Life Science Powerhouse now contains 1000 companies, creating over 38,000 skilled jobs, and generating over £8bn p/a in exports. It is no surprise that it fast coming to be seen as a world class ‘cluster’ to rival Cambridge.

“At today’s Summit, leaders of the Northern cluster joined a chorus of Life Science leaders in Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, and London in highlighting the importance of the EU to medical research, and warned of the dangers of a vote to Leave on Thursday.”

The Summit brought together the North’s leading entrepreneurs, academics and scientists including Dr Anthony Lockett CEO of MEDQP, Professor Sir Alex Markham of the University of Leeds, Will Dracup CEO of Biosignatures Ltd and Geoff Davison of BioNow to explore a number of ideas to promote the North as a powerhouse of medical research.

Professor Sir Alex Markham of the University of Leeds, former CEO of Cancer Research UK, said: “There are many current EU cancer initiatives that we are a part of as a nation, which are producing very exciting research, that we would lose if we were no longer a member of the EU. I think it would be crazy of us to turn our back on initiatives where the latest science is being applied to improve the treatment of patients across Europe.”

Geoff Davison, CEO of Bionow, said: “If we were to vote to leave the EU on Thursday, UK citizens would lose their current access to the best new medicines and health technologies in the quickest time possible, something we currently access, influence and lead through our EU membership. People need to fully understand the impact leaving the EU would have on the cutting edge research and funding currently available to thousands of UK businesses from engineering companies to science start-ups – and how damaging this will ultimately be for the North and the UK.”

Will Dracup, CEO of Biosignatures Ltd, said: “It is hugely important for a life science company to be a part of the open science that goes on across the EU. If we’re seen to be shutting the door to sharing scientific research data from across the Europe it’s a really negative thing for the industry and the UK as a whole.”

Home to world class centres of excellence in health sciences, the region is a unique hub of research, genomics and health technology with over 1000 life science companies supporting over 38, 000 high skilled jobs and exporting over £8.1bn of medicinal and pharmaceutical products per year.

Local leaders highlighted the importance of this sector to the regional and national economy and discussed how the UKs continuing membership of the European Single Market will ensure that the North of England’s Life Science cluster continues to thrive as a global hub for life science and medical research.

Dr Hakim Yadi of the NHSA which helped to convene the Summit said: “In my personal opinion the uncertainty of the life sciences business environment following a vote to leave the EU will place the UK, and the North in particular, at a distinct disadvantage.

“As investors weigh up different investment destinations the UK will be perceived as having a higher commercial risk. In these investment decisions, the perceived risk is as important as real risk.

“The international companies that I work with through the NHSA are seeking to establish a European footprint and look for locations and environments that minimise commercial risk. Brexit will likely have the opposite effect.”

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