Rishi Sunak visits the National Institute for Health Research

£5 billion pound package in R&D to spur innovation in healthcare 

  • Chancellor will announce new investment into ground-breaking projects to tackle UK’s biggest health threats
  • Government to announce biggest ever cash increase for health R&D

A £5 billion investment that will increase health-related research and development to fund new ground-breaking projects, boost innovation and cement the UK’s status as a science superpower is set to be unveiled at Wednesday’s Budget and Spending Review.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce the major boost following on from the huge success of the UK’s life sciences industry which has led the world in developing breakthrough vaccines and lifesaving treatments for Covid-19.

The Department of Health and Social Care will receive £5 billion over the next three years to fund health R&D, with investment rising to £2 billion per year by 2024 - a 57% cash increase since before the pandemic. 

As part of the package, Genomics England will receive funding to support new initiatives, such as ‘Generation Genome,’ a national pilot of 100,000 newborns to use genome sequencing to detect rare diseases. The new technology will enable doctors to detect over 200 conditions compared to existing tests which can just identify nine - potentially saving 3,000 babies per year.

It will also fund a project to tackle healthcare inequalities by increasing representation of minority groups in genomics research programmes. The ‘Diverse Data’ project will aim to recruit at least 15% of people from ethnic minority backgrounds to take part in research programmes.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: 

“The past 18 months has shown us how important innovative R&D is in delivering new, life-saving treatments and improving the efficiency of our healthcare system.

The UK is already home to some of the best minds in healthcare and life sciences, and I’m committed to seeing this sector flourish as we level up opportunity across the country and recover from the pandemic.

“This additional funding will support them in their mission to tackle major global issues, ranging from disease prevention to climate change, and help cement the UK’s position as a science superpower.”

A total of £95 million of the funding will go towards the Office for Life Sciences aimed at increasing uptake of cutting-edge innovations in the NHS and delivering on the Prime Minister’s healthcare missions on cancer, obesity and mental health.

As announced by the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid last week, the government has also committed to continue funding research for cutting-edge coronavirus treatments. This includes £33 million to deploy novel Covid-19 antivirals via a UK-wide trial, which will prioritise the most vulnerable first. 

To coincide with COP26, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) will also announce £20 million for life-saving research on climate change and health. A further £40 million of the funds will be prioritised for social care research to create dedicated evaluation teams to help reform our social care system.

NIHR will also announce £30 million to invest in research skills and training, including a focus on reaching underrepresented groups to help increase diversity in the UK’s research and life sciences sector, as well as a major package of measures to explore innovative technologies for diagnosing and detecting dementia.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty said:

“The pandemic has shone a light on the important work of our scientists and healthcare professionals, from developing life-saving vaccines to identifying better Covid treatments through the RECOVERY trial.”

The government’s commitment to increase investment in health research to £5bn will help us deliver better, more effective care and treatments in the NHS, through innovation funded by organisations such as the world-leading National Institute for Health Research.”

DHSC Chief Scientist and CEO of NIHR, Professor Lucy Chappell added:

“This is an exciting time to be leading the NIHR. We have an enormous opportunity to shape the ways in which we improve lives through science and research in the UK, building on everything we've learned over the last 18 months.

“Backed by the Government's funding, we will be able to support more research into the most pressing health challenges of our time, like the health impacts of climate change and improving social care. We will continue to work closely with the NHS to integrate what we learn, ensuring the benefits of this research will be felt across the country"

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“Our world-leading researchers and scientists have been absolutely pivotal in our fight against Covid-19, developing vaccines and treatments which have saved countless lives in the UK and across the world.

“The new investment will build on this success by accelerating the discovery of ground-breaking medicines and technologies to level up the health of the nation and tackle inequalities.”

Additional quotes from stakeholders:

Baroness Nicola Blackwood, Chair of Genomics England said:

"We are delighted that the government continues to demonstrate its commitment to health research, and I firmly believe that this investment will allow the UK to cement its position as a world leader in life sciences.  Genomics England’s ground-breaking work with the NHS has already demonstrated the power of genomics to transform healthcare, by improving diagnosis and personalisation of treatment in cancer and rare disease."

"It is very exciting that we will now be able to put an additional focus on accelerating diagnosis and access to treatment for newborns with treatable genetic disease, and through our work on diverse data to deliver the benefits of genomic healthcare to all communities."

Chris Wigley, CEO of Genomics England said:

"At Genomics England, our mission is to ensure that everyone benefits from genomic medicine, and we’re incredibly excited that this funding will turbocharge our ability to deliver on that mission.

"The work that this will fund will help us to stop health inequalities in their tracks, and in time will lead to thousands of lives saved and transformed, as well as innovative new cures.

"I am enormously proud to be leading the phenomenal team at Genomics England to deliver on this mission."

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