Why Birm­ing­ham can be global leader in new medicines

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

claims the life of a wo­man or a baby ev­ery minute. That means by the time you have fin­ished read­ing this, six peo­ple will have died.

When we talk about life sciences and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, you could be for­given for think­ing of com­pa­nies like Glax­oSmithK­line or As­traZeneca.

How­ever, big pharma are only re­spon­si­ble for less than a quar­ter of the drugs dis­cov­ered.

The real dis­cov­ery hap­pens with smaller niche com­pa­nies, who are more flex­i­ble than big pharma in cut­ting costs and fo­cused ex­per­tise on their spe­cific ar­eas.

This new niche is around those ill­nesses that have no sat­is­fac­tory method of di­ag­no­sis, treat­ment or pre­ven­tion. With the ar­rival of com­pa­nies like Mirzyme, I en­vi­sion Birm­ing­ham hav­ing the po­ten­tial to be the global cap­i­tal for early-stage pharma ready to tackle “un­met med­i­cal needs”.

And why not? Greater Birm­ing­ham and Soli­hull had the largest amount of star­tups out­side of Lon­don for the fifth year run­ning in 2018. Our di­ver­sity means that, as a re­gion, we of­fer the most com­pre­hen­sive test­ing-bed for new drugs than any­where else in the world. None of this hap­pens with­out ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship, how­ever.

At the Greater Birm­ing­ham and Soli­hull Lo­cal En­ter­prise Part­ner­ship, we are de­vel­op­ing a spe­cific plan nur­tur­ing an ecosys­tem for life sciences, cap­i­tal­is­ing on the unique­ness of our re­gion.

The Greater Birm­ing­ham Cham­bers of Com­merce, de­liv­ers cut­ting-edge busi­ness sup­port to its broad spec­trum of 3200 mem­bers. Our world-class uni­ver­si­ties make us a hon­ey­pot for global ta­lent.

Our mayor, Andy Street, is al­ready lay­ing the ground­work for the fourth in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion in Life Sciences by im­ple­ment­ing the gov­ern­ment’s in­dus­trial strat­egy and se­cur­ing the first pi­lot of 5G broad­band in the coun­try.

Our co-or­di­nated lead­er­ship, our at­trac­tive­ness for world- lead­ing re­searchers and our am­bi­tious vi­sion means we are an al­lur­ing propo­si­tion for thriv­ing en­tre­pre­neur­ial com­pa­nies to lo­cate here. The idea that Birm­ing­ham could be a global leader in this new niche of medicine is very at­trac­tive.

More ex­ports, more jobs and more op­por­tu­ni­ties for our youth make de­vel­op­ing this niche an ob­vi­ous route.

How­ever, I am much hum­bler in my am­bi­tions. If we are able to com­bat dis­eases like pre-eclamp­sia then ev­ery life saved is a life worth fight­ing for.

Per­haps, by the time you fin­ish read­ing my next ar­ti­cle, the lives lost from pre-eclamp­sia will have been re­duced to zero.

Per­haps the next time I write about this we will have achieved my dream of be­com­ing the global leader for un­met med­i­cal needs.

I en­vi­sion Birm­ing­ham hav­ing the po­ten­tial to be the global cap­i­tal for early-stage pharma

Saqib Bhatti is Pres­i­dent of Greater Birm­ing­ham Cham­bers of Com­merce

> Pro­fes­sor Asif Ahmed

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