Scaling up healthcare innovation: Building Birmingham laboratory capacity | So Good News


Professor Gino Martini, CEO of Precision Health Technologies Accelerator (PHTA Ltd), explains how Birmingham provides a collaborative space to simultaneously advance innovation in pharmaceuticals and address health inequalities.

We hear that there is very little laboratory space available for life sciences innovation in the UK, that demand far outstrips supply and that growing companies hit a ‘development wall’ when it comes to scaling up. However, much of this reporting has focused on London and the South East, and with post-Brexit ‘levelling’ still a buzzword, we believe that expanding laboratory provision in other areas will increase the resilience and future proof of the entire UK life sciences sector.

The strengths that Birmingham and the entire Midlands region can offer to pharmaceuticals are the same strengths that the sector requires. Not just in clinical trial design and delivery, but in basic science, drug and biomarker development, and regulatory support. In addition, Birmingham is also a ‘world within a city’, reflecting a global population in terms of ethnic profile and socio-economic demographics. Interestingly, we are able to recruit 25% non-white representation in many clinical trials – we are not only well placed to take advantage of population diversity, but are already actively doing so. As an industrial pharmacist, it is clear that clinical trials are the lifeblood of any pharmaceutical organization. Precision medicine simply means that the right patient receives the right treatment, meaning that diversity in clinical trials is critical to successful clinical outcomes.

Most of this service is run by the University of Birmingham and its affiliated university Birmingham Health Partners NHS Trusts, so it was natural – during development Birmingham Health Innovation Campus (BHIC) together with Bruntwood SciTech – the university decided to create its flagship research facility. That initial idea was PHTA – a suite of advanced facilities designed specifically to support life sciences companies to start, expand and thrive.

We want to build a truly multidisciplinary ecosystem where academics, clinicians and pharmacists can work under one roof, as we believe co-location leads to fast-track collaboration and innovation.

When working with PHTA, pharmaceutical companies have direct access to the Birmingham Clinical Trials Centre. The center comprises the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU), which was established 30 years ago to use cutting-edge science to improve patient care, and the Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit (BCTU), which specializes in design, conduct, and delivery. and analysis of definitive clinical trials and trial evaluation studies. But in establishing the PHTA, we are also introducing a new way for industry to partner with UKCRC-accredited units in both early phase trials and practice-changing, randomized clinical trials.

Currently, these units work to answer research questions led by clinical investigators aiming to change practice and produce publications, and industry involvement is often limited to providing us with a drug product and sometimes a small grant donation.

Our new PHTA Center Birmingham Precision Medicine Center Industry Trials Hub – led by Professor Pamela Kearns – aims to change this relationship. We want to work more closely with our industrial partners so that together we can develop clinical trials in areas of major unmet medical need, and the data from these trials will provide a “suitable for application” pathway for our industrial partners.

When the hub is fully operational, it will be a one-stop shop – a place where industry partners can come and work with the University of Birmingham and its clinical trial units to meet the regulatory standards required to conduct trials. licensing.

PHTA therefore acts as a catalyst and home for collaborative interaction between academics, entrepreneurs and clinicians with complementary skills, who come together to accelerate innovation that would be difficult to achieve when talent and expertise are not co-located.

The people we want to work with are those who see value in being co-located with key opinion leaders across a wide range of clinical specialties and businesses who are passionate about collaborating for the benefit of patients. We are fortunate to have access to experts such as Professors Paul Moss, Andrew Beggs, Alex Richter, Gary Middleton, Colin Watts, Liam Grover, Chris Green and Chris McConville. I feel privileged to work with such a team and help patients gain access to innovative medicines.

They can also work with our NHS partners to access one of the UK’s longest established health data ecosystems – UHB was one of the first trusts to adopt electronic health records, so it has over 20 years of data. will begin to liaise with other Midland Trusts and beyond. There is much desire in the region to share data and use it responsibly, such as linking genomic data together and using additional pathways, infrastructure and governance to ensure simplicity and security. Professors Elizabeth Sapey and Melanie Calvert are leading experts on such data and its application to drug development, regulation and access.

We also share the ambitions of the NHS and Dr Bola Owolabi to address health inequalities from a local economy perspective and to use PHTA and ultimately the Birmingham Whole Health Innovation Campus as an anchor site (NHS England » The role of business in reducing health inequalities). It’s worth noting that just five minutes from our Selly Oak site is Bournville, where the Cadbury family has invested in the local community and their wellbeing – As CEO of PHTA, I guarantee that we will do the same.

If you would like to learn more about the development of BHIC and our commitment to advancing pharmaceuticals through PHTA, please visit our new website:


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