Recommendations to the government on the long-term success of the UK life sciences sector have been published today. Life Science’s Champion Professor Sir John Bell’s report aims to put the UK in a world-leading position to take advantage of the health technology trends of the next 20 years through the establishment of the Health Advanced Research Programme.
The strategy, and the recommendations it contains was written in collaboration with industry, academia, charity, and research organisations. The HRA submitted a number of comments and recommendations.
The HRA’s Interim Chief Executive, Teresa Allen, said:
"We recognise the challenges and the aspirations this strategy describes and we offer our support to a vision which will enhance our global position and improve patient outcomes in the UK.
“The HRA’s role in ensuring research is ethical, legal and safe is an integral part of this ambition, and we are committed to helping to make sure the UK is a great place to do research where more people have the opportunity to participate in health research and continue to feel safe when they do.”
We have recently made substantive progress with a new HRA Approval service which simplifies the approvals process for research, making it easier for research studies to be set up. Over 5000 research applications have been through the new system since it was set up in March last year.
The new system has allowed us to make much progress in speeding up clinical trial approval – for example in March 2017 for commercial trials the time from final Research Ethics Committee decisions to full HRA Approval is now an average of less than 10 days.
We have also been working with researchers to design a new validation process to further improve efficiency, and inviting researchers who plan to implement novel studies to contact us before they submit their application to assist them through the process. This more personalised approach has been a great success and in the last few months we have a number of examples of where we have been able to fast track some quite complex clinical trials.
We welcome too the recognition that additional funding would allow us to electronically assess low risk studies without human intervention, allowing us to focus expertise on more complex, or higher risk interventional studies including those which arise from personalised medicine and genomics. Additional funding for HRA would ideally come as part of a new digitally enabled, integrated research ecosystem as outlined elsewhere within the strategy. A ‘submit once and share approach’ would save significant time and resources for researchers.
Under our remit to promote and protect research participants we would be happy to play a key role in helping to instil public confidence in data sharing and consent to benefit healthcare in alignment with the National Data Guardian recommendations.
We look forward to playing an active part in achieving the stated ambitions of the report.