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ABPI Calls for Action to Plug Science Skills Gaps

February 1, 2019
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

The ABPI has released a statement calling for action to address skills shortages in science within the UK, which could jeopardize the country’s position for medicines and vaccines R&D.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has released a statement calling for action to address skills shortages in science within the United Kingdom, which could jeopardize the country’s position for medicines and vaccines research and development. 

This call for action comes after the ABPI published its latest update to its skills survey and report, ‘Bridging the skills gap in the biopharmaceutical industry (2019),’ which highlighted some areas for concern for the 30 bio/pharmaceutical companies that are members of the ABPI. Areas for concern include genomics, immunology, clinical pharmacology, and bioinformatics and chemoinformatics.

The association warned that the numbers of students studying many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects in the UK is lagging behind those of Europe, and has stressed that as a result highly-skilled scientific roles could move to other parts of the world if the skills gap is not addressed.

“The government has set out ambitious targets for increased R&D spend in the UK-including by business-but for this to succeed we must have access to highly skilled people,” explained Sheuli Porkess, deputy chief scientific officer at the ABPI. “UK science and academia are the envy of the world, and we are vying to be Europe’s premier biotech cluster, second only to the United States. But we are seeing a decline in R&D investment. If we don’t address the skills shortages we may see even more research-and with it highly skilled jobs-move abroad. This would be bad news for NHS patients and the UK economy.”

“The pace of medicines development is faster than ever before, and the skills required are complex and often overlap. Scientists of today need to be able to integrate computer skills with biological and chemical skills,” added Andrew Miles, UK general manager and SVP UK and Ireland Pharmaceuticals. “The future of medicines development is exciting, and we want young people in the UK to be equipped to lead this work, alongside other countries such as Germany, France, and China who are all making strides in developing advanced treatments and technologies for patients.”

Furthermore, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union was highlighted in the report, with particular emphasis on the level of uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Concerns around the recruitment of highly qualified workers was found to have risen compared with the last report in 2015, with small-to-medium businesses particularly concerned about potential bureaucracy increases that may result from Brexit.

“The Science Industry Partnership is delighted to welcome the ABPI’s updated Skills Survey report, providing the sector with further evidence on skills, as it prepares for a future outside the EU. The SIP looks forward to collaborating with the ABPI and the BioIndustry Association (BIA) to responding with a ground-breaking Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy,” stated Alex Felthouse, Science Industry Partnership (SIP) Board member and managing director of Eisai Manufacturing Ltd. “This will build a clear evidence base of the status of life-science skills and future scenarios to 2030, focusing on medicines manufacturing and advanced therapies as well as emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence.”

Source: ABPI