I'm honoured to be opening the conference, and to be part of this group of people with such a unique mixture of expertise and insight.
There are over 70 speakers and a packed programme of topical debates, covering innovation and the challenges and opportunities facing our industry, Government and patients in the UK.
I believe the strength of our sector is reflected here today at this conference. Across the range of topics you'll be discussing, I see an exciting era where the pace of development in pharmaceutical science is faster than ever.
Three in particular caught my eye:
How new technologies like artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and drones are helping to deliver better healthcare for patients globally, how patient data and real world-evidence are driving our research and development activities and how innovation in manufacturing is proceeding on a global scale.
I don't think there has ever been a more exciting time to be part of our amazing industry.
As the President of the ABPI I speak regularly with colleagues in the UK and globally. It never fails to impress me how companies are continually innovating, investing and adapting to ensure that patients and health systems benefit from the opportunities we create.
I've always been fascinated by science. Both during my university days when I specialised in how the body's defence systems interact with retroviruses, to now where I'm privileged to see the whole chain of what it takes to move an idea, to a molecule, to an improved life.
We are an industry that has real impact. Real purpose
Medical advances help the NHS save nearly 10,000 more lives a year from heart attacks than 20 years ago. They help millions of people avoid emergency admissions for asthma. Medicines have helped to double the cancer survival rate over the last 40 years. HIV/ AIDS has been transformed into a chronic, manageable condition and we can now cure hepatitis C in just 12 weeks.
We are certainly in a new golden age of medicines and I get the sense that this is only the beginning, as more personalised, targeted therapies are set to dramatically improve health outcomes.
Our sector is leading the transformation of patient care like we've never seen before. Right now, there are over 7,000 compounds in development. Many of these won't deliver, but they all take us at least one step forward, and we know from experience that some will advance patient outcomes beyond the realms of what we think is possible.
This makes me really proud to work for our industry. We are truly a great British success story. And let's be clear - there is nothing self-congratulatory or complacent in what I say: The Prime Minister herself has stated that it's hard to think of an industry of greater strategic importance to the UK.
So yes, we can all be proud. However, we are at a critical juncture for healthcare delivery and the biopharma industry in the UK. We need to shape our future. We need to act now.
I see three clear challenges - or maybe opportunities - ahead. We must seize these: Brexit, The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, and access to innovative medicines for UK patients. So let me talk about each in turn.
Firstly Brexit: The ABPI and its members have worked flat out since 24th June 2016 and have been central to the Brexit debate to ensure patients and the NHS are not impacted and that our industry, in the UK and Europe, is in as strong a position as possible as we leave the EU.
Working with the BIA and over 200 industry experts the ABPI presented our priorities and recommendations to Ministers the day after the summer parliamentary recess last year. We are tenacious in driving these same crucial priorities today: To secure a collaborative approach to medicines regulation, to preserve integrated UK and EU tradingrelationships, ease of movement for global talent and securing the funding to deliver a successful future for UK science.
Our voice is being heard. Our recommendations for medicines regulation and continued alignment with Europe have been taken on board by the UK Government, both privately in negotiations with the EU Commission and publicly. You may even have read about it on the front pages of the Financial Times.
We continue to meet regularly with our political stakeholders and global industry experts to ensure that our priorities are not just understood, but are taken on board and acted upon not only by the UK government but also by the Commission.
But, the clock is ticking and companies are driving contingencies.
500 million patients across Europe rely on this transition being as smooth as possible. A thriving life-sciences sector relies on this transition being as smooth as possible. We are playing an active role; we need a resolution and we need it now.
Second, I'd like to turn to the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy.
Sir John Bell has done an impressive job bringing the key players together to deliver an inspirational blueprint for our industry. To be the first sector to publish such a strategy is a real achievement. We have a great statement of vision, of policy for a positive future. If we get this right the prize is immense: for patients, for our industry and for the UK economy. The questions now is how do we make it happen? How do we make it real and a success? I trust this will form the basis of many conversations over the next two days.
As he launched the Strategy, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, said he wanted UK patients to be at the front of the queue for new medicines and health technologies. We share his ambition. We need to move now to commitments on implementation, particularly regarding funding and the role of the NHS.
Implementing the strategy needs to be built in partnership with the NHS – An NHS that can sustainably adopt innovation. An NHS that can maximise the data it holds to map patient outcomes. An NHS working with industry to ensure the UK keeps pace with the rest of the world.
Make no mistake. I believe that the NHS has the potential be the best place in the world to research, develop and launch new medicines. However we need actions to implement the strategy to turn this ambition in to reality.
As Sir John identified, the best way right now of moving these recommendations forward and of achieving change is through a strong sector deal with the pharmaceutical industry. Constructive conversations with Government to deliver this are happening as I speak with you today. These must succeed.
This brings me to our third critical area for industry. This one is not new. We must address the long-standing issues holding back patient access in the UK.
As many of you will know, my biggest personal commitment as President of the ABPI is to try to deliver a positive change in this area.
Why am I passionate about this? Here is an AstraZeneca example some of you may empathise with:
An oncology medicine is discovered by British scientists in a British lab. Britain became the global hub for the clinical trial programme - a real team effort across UK bioscience.
In fact we believe it to be the fastest development of a medicine ever in our industry – just three years.
The medicine is also packaged in Britain to be shipped around the world.
However, NHS patients in England had to wait over a year longer than other countries in Europe to benefit from this medicine. Even when it finally received a positive recommendation it was restricted to a sub-group of patients in England, whereas Scotland gave full access.
The same submission was made across Europe, they said yes, England paused and said maybe.
We have some of the lowest medicine prices in the EU, and one of the strictest cost-effectiveness assessments. Yet there is a growing body of evidence, including Government data, showing that the UK lags behind similar nations in terms of patient health outcomes and access to medicines.
We must value the innovation we develop to genuinely be regarded as a credible world leader in life-sciences.
For every 100 patients receiving a medicine in comparative European countries, like Germany and France, just 18 patients in England will receive it.
It is not good enough that our families' and friends in the UK are five times LESS likely to get a new medicine here in the UK than in countries like France and Germany.
The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy sets the ambition for the UK to be in the top quartile of comparator countries both for the speed of adoption and the overall uptake of innovative medicines by 2023. This is to be applauded.
To get there we need a more holistic access and reimbursement system with a range of assessment routes. We need a new decision-making framework to accommodate different levels of evidence for different types of medicines. And this needs to be supported by a funding direction that secures usage in the NHS.
There is another vital aspect that is instrumental in driving patient access to medicines, and inevitably it is a point of intense debate. I'm speaking, of course, about Investment. I wholeheartedly support the focus that Simon Stevens is giving this topic. Indeed, ABPI called for it in its election manifesto.
There isn't a health charity, patient group or think tank in the land that doesn't believe that the NHS requires significant increased funding to be successful. We saw commentary spread on this across the media just last week.
The UK spends 9.9% GDP on overall healthcare, compared to the EU average of 11.3%. We cannot meet the ambition for delivering world-class healthcare unless we invest in line with our peers.
As Simon Stevens said last week, people ask him. "Aren't we spending at the European average?' Well, only if you think that bundling austerity-shrunken Greek and Portuguese health spending should help shape the benchmark for Britain.
"If instead you think that modern Britain should look more like Germany or France or Sweden then we are under-funding our health services by £20bn-£30bn a year."
We think that the sensible amount would be in line with the rest of the G7.
If we do this we can ensure our patients get the care they need, rather than behind Europe for nine out of ten common cancers or having the worst five year survival rates in the EU for ovarian cancer and the second worst for lung cancer.
The NHS is facing the toughest challenge of its history. Unprecedented financial constraints, an ageing population and an increase in chronic disease caused by both age and lifestyle issues. Between 2005 and 2015, the UK's population above the age of 65 increased by 21 per cent, while in the 85-plus age bracket, the population has risen by 31 per cent.
We know innovative medicines are part of the solution. We can help find more efficient ways of managing the health system – whether that's supporting treating people at home, cutting down on hospital stays or getting people back to work.
Innovative medicines form a crucial plank in providing excellent healthcare. They need to be encouraged and embraced. We need creative, long term solutions to help sustain our health service, and not short-term cost cutting exercises.
There is a key point here. Our industry must be able to stand up to scrutiny and justify the investment in medicines that we know is required to meet the needs of patients and the NHS.
We need to be trusted in how we value innovation, that the medicines we deliver offer value and that trust needs to be reflected in our wider reputation. It's something we all have to work at and it starts with clarity on what we do and why we do it.
We have a great story to tell. Not enough people know that we are the UK's largest contributor to R&D spend, that approximately one third of all jobs in the pharmaceutical industry are R&D roles, that ABPI members provide over 80 percent of the world's new medicines to the NHS.
Not enough people know that the pharmaceutical industry employs 63000 across the UK and that we contribute £30.4bn to the economy every year.
Not enough people know that we are one of the most highly regulated industries in the UK with a code of practice going back to 1958.
And so, I have a challenge for all of you over the next two days: The UK industry may be acutely feeling the effects of cost containment, and access challenges – But these are in many ways trends increasingly faced in other parts of the world.
And so, I ask, when you look at the questions raised by your sessions, start positively from where we are now to make a better future, put yourselves in the position of the patient, clinician or commissioner and look for new solutions from there.
To close, there are very few industries that have had such a fundamentally positive impact on human life as ours. We should be proud. For patients and the NHS, we must secure the future of the pharmaceutical industry and life sciences in the UK.
My request is that we work together as a sector to align on positive solutions. Not an industry hanging onto the past, rather a positive forward-looking sector ready to shape and embrace its future.
A positive force for the future.
I hope you enjoy what looks like a fantastic two days ahead.
The ABPI represents innovative research-based biopharmaceutical companies, large, medium and small, leading an exciting new era of biosciences in the UK.
Our industry, a major contributor to the economy of the UK, brings life-saving and life-enhancing medicines to patients. We represent companies who supply more than 80 per cent of all branded medicines used by the NHS and who are researching and developing the majority of the current medicines pipeline, ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of helping patients prevent and overcome disease.
Globally our industry is researching and developing more than 7,000 new medicines.
The ABPI is recognised by government as the industry body negotiating on behalf of the branded pharmaceutical industry for statutory consultation requirements including the pricing scheme for medicines in the UK.