As the world wrestles with the health and economic implications of Covid-19, proposals to speed up the delivery of new medicines and strengthen digital skills in Kent have been submitted to the Government.
The Accelerated Medicines Design and Development (AMDD) project has been widely welcomed after a bid totalling £53m was submitted to the Strength in Places Fund. If the AMDD bid is successful it will secure a contribution of £25m from the project’s partners to drive the area’s economic growth and build on Kent’s life science expertise.
The project is led by a not-for-profit consortium, involving Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN), LGC through its National Measurement Laboratory, and Discovery Park in Sandwich, which was recently named a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone by the Government.
By harnessing the latest technological solutions, including groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analysis, the project will create a world-first Digital Design Studio at Discovery Park.
The Studio’s digital technology will focus on ways to potentially accelerate the delivery of new medicines and treatments to improve health outcomes for patients by accessing the combined expertise of locally-based life science companies.
The AMDD bid also includes a Digital Skills Hub, a Kent & Medway Data Trust, as well as a Venture Fund to support the development of new technologies and ideas generated. It is also supported by Pfizer, Canterbury Christ Church University, and the University of Kent.
The bid has secured the support of Kent MPs, as well as the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, Kent County Council and local authorities in East Kent, as well as national businesses. It recognises the potential to strengthen the economy of Kent and country as a whole, as part of the post-pandemic recovery.
Melissa Ream, Digital and AI Consultant at KSS AHSN, who led the bid team, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and the global search for vaccines demonstrates the importance of developing ways to reduce the time to design, develop and manufacture new medicines.
“By harnessing the power of data and advanced digital tools it may be possible to develop sophisticated treatments, ensure their efficacy and get them to the NHS faster.”
The Strength in Places fund invests in research and innovation projects that drive economic growth and reinforce supply chains that can demonstrate significant economic impact.
Mayer Schreiber, CEO of Discovery Park, added: “We expect the AMDD to be a significant catalyst for digital innovation, bringing healthcare benefits for patients. Combined with the training associated with the Digital Skills Hub, the proposal outlined in the bid will be a powerful driver of economic growth in Kent.”
As a leading partner in the AMDD project, the National Measurement Laboratory at LGC brings expertise and a strongrecord of investment in measurement capabilities in Diagnostics, Advanced Therapeutics, Safety and Security; playing a leading role in the standardisation of measurements for the wider pharmaceutical sector.
Dr Julian Braybrook, UK Government Chemist and Director of the National Measurement Laboratory at LGC said: “Measurement plays a crucial role in improving productivity. For this reason, we are committed to AMDD’s setting up of a digital measurement and design service that will accelerate medicines development through the fusion of modelling, simulation and data.
“The improved confidence in measurement control will strengthen the levers of innovation and training to transform the regional economies associated with theKent and Medway’s life science sector.”
The proposed Digital Design Studio is to be based at Discovery Park, which hosts around 160 different organisations – including Pfizer’s largest R&D facility in Europe, with over 750 scientists, technicians, regulatory professionals and business experts all working towards creating life-changing medicines for patients.
With Canterbury Christ Church University taking the lead on the Digital Skills Hub, Professor Mohamed Abdel-Maguid, Pro Vice Chancellor (STEM), said: “The AMDD would be a game changer for Kent and Medway, helping to drive innovation and create new value chains. It would also potentially generate highly skilled knowledge-based and life sciences jobs to inspire and retain the region’s talent.
“The proposed Digital Skills Hub will offer a hands-on practical environment, that brings together educational and industry partners to address the digital skills gap by upskilling the existing workforce and inspiring future generations.”
Professor Chris Farmer from the University of Kent added: “A successful bid would create the Kent & Medway Data Trust (KERNEL). This Trust would foster greater collaboration across the health and life sciences community and enable us to support academic research and health analytics across the region and beyond.
“Valuable linked data has the potential to support the faster arrival of more personalised, sophisticated medicines to NHS patients.”
AMDD is one of 17 national bids to the Strength in Places Fund, which is managed by UKRI (UK Research & Innovation). A decision on the bid is expected to be announced by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy inApril 2021.