Last year’s Life Sciences Vision set out a bold set of ambitions for science in the UK. Bolstered by the success of the UK’s world-leading Covid-19 vaccine programme, the Life Sciences Vision articulated a commitment to building UK health science infrastructure, and preventing the loss of talent, IP and resources to overseas markets.

It’s an ambition that looks to buck the trend of nearly three decades, where the UK has seen a brain and capacity drain; delivering world class research and treatments, only to see the investment moved overseas to a location perceived more friendly to R&D. 

While research institutes across the country start to put together their UKRI funding bids and anxiously wait for the outcome, there is an area where with just relatively modest investment, we could realise some of the central themes of the Life Sciences Vision and make real progress against the health missions within it.

Molecular radiotherapy is an innovative cancer treatment that is giving patients who might not survive a chance. By utilising nuclear waste (yes, really), UK researchers are developing highly personalised radioactive drugs that will save lives, capacity and establish the UK as a pioneer in cancer treatment.

Crucial to expanding this treatment is re-establishing a domestic radionuclide supply in the UK, reducing reliance on imports of nuclear materials. The asks are relatively modest, in the overall scheme of R&D investment but will have a significant impact on the scientific and health outcomes for years.

So what do we need? 

We need greater accelerator capacity and processing capabilities so that new radioactive drugs  can be developed. We also need regulatory reform to make manufacturing processes work better for nuclear medicine and to make it easier for radiochemists to train and qualify in the UK. There also needs to be an appropriated resourced radiopharmacy dedicated solely to research and trials.

But this isn’t just investment with no impact – it will save the NHS money, improve patient outcomes and create jobs and investment for the future. It’s hard to think of a better embodiment of levelling up, never mind scientific excellence.

Molecular radiotherapy is an opportunity to democratise a treatment that is having a significant impact on health, reducing dependency on international supplies and demonstrating UK PLCs entrepreneurialism.

It will demonstrate that the UK is serious about creating the conditions for Life Sciences to thrive in the UK. The Government should support it.

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