The Covid pandemic changed the scene of healthcare on a global scale and embedded the use of data firmly into healthcare solutions.  With a population almost exclusively served by the NHS, the UK is ideally placed to lead the world in the next stage of data driven innovation.

Every one of the speakers at this week’s TechBio UK event, organised by the BIA, reinforced the message that by harnessing data, AI and drug development, treatments can be transformed and preventative medicine scaled up to deliver significantly better outcomes. 

There was a moment during this week’s TechBio UK conference when you realised that you were witnessing a change in the status quo. In a very short space of time, TechBio UK has emerged from the background to become one of the most exciting developments in healthcare. It has gained its one identity, separate from BioTech, and its huge potential is gaining widespread recognition.

Combining AI and BioTech allows us to analyse much greater volumes of data than ever before, improving the development of medicines and their accurate delivery and delivery of bespoke medicines and treatment pathways for individual patients.

At Discovery Park we have all the elements that TechBio companies need to scale-up, including wet labs, co-working spaces, an Incubator and Barclays Eagle Labs and we are committed to a skills agenda, helping to deliver a pipeline of talent to our tenants.

It was good, therefore, to hear that the BIA will next year be launching a national campaign, highlighting the fantastic career opportunities that exist within this sector, underlining the fact that, beyond financial remuneration, the rewards include the opportunity to work for purposeful companies whose products and services are truly making a difference and who are also committed to reducing their materials and energy usage in order to have minimal impact on the environment.

The conference was also very clear on the challenges that lie in the path of TechBio development. Start-ups here find themselves caught between traditional tech VC funders, who can be nervous about the regulation in the healthcare sector or who are unsure about the technology, and BioTech investors, who are unsure about the new data and cloud technology. It will take the emergence of a new kind of VC cohort in order to tackle this successfully. And even then, there is still the lack of clarity over what balance of skills it takes to create a board of directors that is primed for success.

This is all new territory, but the announcement by the Government in March that they were committing £200m to standardising NHS data should help to sort out one of the basic issues – the lack of standardisation in data sets between one unitary health authority in England and the next. The ambition now is that, by 2025, there should be a world-leading NHS-wide health data research infrastructure.

What the conference also highlighted was that more investment in early stage life science companies is needed and it proposed that start-ups should be allowed to use their Research and Development tax credits in order to cover cloud computing and data costs.

Amongst the many excellent speakers was Inga Deakin of Molten Ventures who believed that one of TechBio’s stand-outs was its ability to focus on patients as consumers, bringing those who create the treatments much closer to those who benefit from them, and that can only be a good thing.

Reflecting on this year’s TechBio UK conference I think those of us who were there have come away feeling that we witnessed a moment of change and that from now on the way we look at treatments, their research and development and how we fund them, will be intrinsically different.

Jane Kennedy is Chief Business Officer of Discovery Park