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A big topic, for sure, but one we were lucky enough to get some perspectives on, having attended an exclusive invite-only conference on this very subject at the London Stock Exchange this morning. Present were stakeholders across the value chain comprising academics, industry leaders, investors and executives from the National Health Service. A keynote presentation was provided by the Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock MP, UK Secretary of State for Health & Social Care. In terms of what we learned – 

1: ‘Innovation is not just a buzz word.’ Said verbatim by an executive from AstraZeneca, this was a persistent message across all presentations. With just 4% of all drug developments progressing from a pre-clinical stage to full approval, industry experts are increasingly prioritising the quality of their research over the quantity, focusing on targets which have tangible commercial potential and specifically responding to unmet healthcare needs.

2: Technology is a critical enabler and can help move ‘science fiction to science fact,’ as one industry executive put it. Among the most promising initiatives discussed across all panels were the potential offered from genomics (and especially gene-sequencing), CRISPR (gene-editing) and AI (taking large sets of data to make predictive assumptions). 

3: Expect more digital healthcare. Many present at the event were of the opinion that this was the way in which the industry was evolving. Digital innovations – whether as basic as an iWatch or more complex, such as a personal glucose monitor – would effectively serve to democratise healthcare further. Under this (perhaps optimistic) scenario, consumers would pay directly for services they really needed, potentially eliminating middlemen and improving overall industry efficiency.

4: Access to funding is critical. Participants at the conference felt that the US healthcare ecosystem was more mature than in the UK and that, for many businesses, access to capital was correspondingly easier in the US. The UK may currently be doing some of the most exciting healthcare innovation globally, but much of it ends up being commercialised in the US. The gauntlet has been thrown down to the industry.

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