How Government Investment Can Support Life-Changing Medical Breakthroughs

December 6, 2022

Following last week’s announcement by the Office of Life Sciences of a new approach to tackling health challenges, Lesley Soden, Innovation Programme Director at the HIN, writes about the important role government has to play in ensuring medical breakthroughs can benefit patients in the UK.

The UK government announced last week that over £113 million will be available to fund research into four healthcare missions: cancer, obesity, mental health and addiction. This will help unlock the next generation of medicines and diagnostics to save lives, transform patient care and ensure UK patients are the first to benefit from medical breakthroughs.

At the Health Innovation Network, we support many companies every year that have innovative digital and technology healthcare solutions at different stages of development. In the UK start-ups often create the most game-changing technology, however they lack evidence to demonstrate clinical efficacy and cost savings for the NHS. Government funding is crucial to pay for the research needed to demonstrate impact and support quicker adoption within clinical pathways.

There are promising innovations whose clinical trials show excellent results supporting cancer diagnosis and can help our stretched clinical workforce to diagnose cancers earlier. These include:

  • Caddie

    An AI system developed by Odin Vision to support earlier and easier detection of colorectal cancer and characterise polyps (abnormal tissue growth in the bowl) by helping doctors to identify polyps more easily during colonoscopy procedures. Find out more about Caddie.

  • MIA

    A deep learning solution developed by Kheiron Medical to improve breast cancer screening that support radiologists to make the decision to recall or not recall. Find out more about MIA.

  • DERM

    A Class IIa medical device created by Skin Analytics using AI to help clinicians classify suspected skin cancer referrals, helping to safely discharge benign lesions without relying on dermatologists’ review. Find out more about Derm

Funding will support the development of technologies that enable earlier, more effective cancer diagnosis helping to achieve the ambition that by 2028 three-quarters of cancers will be diagnosed at stages 1 or 2. Another step forward is the £40.2 million for research into mental health to develop and introduce digital technologies to support patients.

The mental health in the UK has been impacted by the pandemic and the NHS is experiencing the greatest demand ever upon its services. But there are promising evidence-based innovations that can help people to manage better at home and prevent mental health crisis including:

  • Limbic

    An AI chatbot to support NHS’s talking therapies services (IAPT) to screen new referrals, collect patient information and create service efficiencies to reduce costs by saving hours of clinician’s time in triaging the referrals. Find out more about Limbic.

  • Wysa

    Helps users to get access to early mental health support by using clinically underpinned tools and strategies using AI to ensure users are provided with tailored modules and activities for their current mental health needs whilst waiting for assessment and treatment. Find out more about Wysa.

  • Lumi Nova

    Developed by BFB Labs has used gamification to support 7-12 year olds to self-manage their worries using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Recommended by NICE, this game can help to treat children with anxiety. Find out more about Lumi Nova.

Generally, both the NHS and private investors are fairly risk-adverse when it’s comes to the most cutting-edge innovation and in particular those that disrupt existing clinical pathways requiring complex transformation. Being able to pump-prime these innovations helps to demonstrate the impact upon patient care, accelerating adoption and provides assurance to NHS providers and commissioners of their safety and effectiveness.

If this funding is going to be truly transformational and build on the vaccine taskforce model, we need to make sure that the research can be used for both clinical trials but also for testing in real clinical settings. If we can roll out vaccines at rapid speed but in a safe and inclusive way, then we should be able to apply this motivation for digital and technology solutions.

We look forward to hearing more about these funding competitions and how they can accelerate life-changing innovations for patients, boost NHS efficiency and keep the UK a global life sciences hothouse.

Learn More

Find out more about the government’s new strategy from the Office of Life Sciences.

Read the government's new strategy