As we look forward to Pharma Integrates next week, we spoke to this year’s opening speaker Ben Osborn. Ben is the UK Country Manager and Managing Director for Pfizer UK, and the incoming President of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, giving him a great perspective on the current state of the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors in the UK.
Ben joined Pfizer in 1998 after graduating from Leeds University, and has since then held a number of leadership roles both in the UK and internationally.
He is passionate about organisational culture, striving to ensure patients benefit from breakthrough innovation and science, and his current position with Pfizer and ABPI put him in a perfect position to make real progress on this mission. Following a tradition of the ABPI president opening Pharma Integrates, we are delighted to have Ben as our opening speaker in the 10th year of the event, and we asked him to share his unique perspective on some key questions in healthcare ahead of next week’s event.
Q. What do we need to put in place to ensure patients get the maximum benefit from breakthrough innovations in healthcare?
A. COVID-19 has shown us what is possible when industry, government, the NHS and Academia work together to tackle major challenges. We have seen this first-hand with the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout. I was fortunate enough to work directly with the Vaccines Taskforce and I noted three clear takeaways from the pandemic, which must underpin the way we tackle health challenges in the UK going forward, and make the UK a Life Sciences Superpower.
The first is adopting innovation. If we are serious about becoming a “science superpower” we must embrace and value innovation.
The second is the power of mission-based policy making. We’ve witnessed collaboration on a scale never seen before, with the public and private sector working seamlessly together, supported by agile regulators along the way. Apply this to dementia, cancer and AMR, and we have the potential to make significant progress at pace.
Thirdly, we need to ensure we build resilience into our health and care system for future success. We must have the capacity within the system to embed research as part of routine care. And we need to be able to provide first class treatment and diagnostic services whilst responding to major health crises.
The Life Sciences Vision published earlier this year has the full backing of the pharmaceutical industry, and clearly identifies where we need to take action to enhance UK competitiveness. It couldn’t be more timely. We are in a global race. But it is action and delivery, not strategies, which will ultimately secure commitments from investors. The Spending Review later this month is therefore critical for delivering on the commitments set out in the Vision. There are some core areas where we must focus:
- Investing in a strong science base and modernising R&D Tax Credits
- Levelling the playing field on medicines manufacturing incentives
- Harnessing the unique potential of UK health data and making the UK a clinical research powerhouse
- Ensuring the NHS is an innovation partner that supports the research and uptake of new medical innovations
- Providing our regulators with the resources they need to deliver efficient, innovative and agile services
Q. What is the role of organisations like ABPI in supporting healthcare, and what is your top goal(s) to achieve during your time as president?
A. It’s a huge honour to be President of the ABPI at such a pivotal time for the sector. We have a real opportunity to reflect and build on the successes of the past year and ensure the spirit of the mission-led approach we have seen in the fight against COVID-19 is reflected in everything we do in the health and care space going forward.
As for my priorities as ABPI President, I have three. The first is about building a more resilient NHS post-pandemic, and doing this by supporting the health service and the government to build back better from COVID-19. The ultimate test for knowing if we’ve achieved that is making sure that no patient is left behind: that the health inequalities that the pandemic has exposed are improved.
Second, I want to help put life sciences at the heart of the UK’s future prosperity. We have heard a lot from the government about making the UK a science superpower. That is very much a shared ambition and I want to use the weight of the presidency to make sure industry is able to live up to its side of the bargain. But to have real impact, we need the government to match our determination and deliver policy which enables and empowers the sector to fully realise its role at the heart of the UK’s wealth and health economy.
And finally, I want to put tackling global health challenges in the spotlight and re-commit industry to finding solutions for ongoing health emergencies. Front of mind is obviously being prepared for the next pandemic, and we have seen some really solid plans come out from the pharmaceutical industry and from national governments at this summer’s G7.
Q. What role do you see conferences and discussion between different stakeholders from across the pharma pipeline playing in the future of healthcare?
A. Put simply, the relationship between pharmaceutical companies, government, patient organisations and the NHS is critical to the development of new medicines and improving patient outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that when the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS works together, amazing things can happen that directly benefit patients health and the economic wealth of our nation.
That joint approach in the face of adversity meant the expertise and experience of the private sector being coupled with the capacity and knowledge of the health service to deliver for patients; with everything from adapting to provide care at home and keeping vital medicine supply chains open – especially for ICUs – to making sure clinical trials continued.
We are seeing some extraordinary collaborations delivering what really matters for patients: better diagnosis, better care, and better outcomes.
We have MoU’s between industry and the NHS in Manchester and Birmingham that are seeing some incredible results. We want to build on these successes and make the most of our shared strengths to address immediate health challenges and build a more resilient health system for the future. None of this can happen without great communication and debate. Right now the need for close dialogue has never been greater, so that together we can define the future of our life science innovation and how this will benefit the health and wealth of our nation.
Pfizer has a long and proud history of being part of world-class science in the UK. Our site in Sandwich, Kent was one of the world’s first mass-production facilities for penicillin back in the 1950s and continues to be an important location for Pfizer over 65 years later. During the last 20 years, our scientists in Sandwich have discovered new treatments for important disease areas and disorders including heart disease, HIV and migraine.
The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines and vaccines. We represent comapnies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. Our members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. We work in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines.