Lord Benyon and NOAH explore how the Life Sciences and Animal Health sectors can drive R&D and innovation’
A panel event hosted on Wednesday 26 January by NOAH (National Office of Animal Health) with key panellist Lord Benyon, Minister for Rural Affairs, Access to Nature and Biosecurity, revealed the value of the animal health industry and how its impact can strengthen the UK's position as a scientific superpower.
Lord Benyon explained the importance of R&D in the animal health sector, highlighting that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is now the fourth largest science funding department in government, with seven public sector research establishments providing world-leading expertise. He also confirmed that the Government is poised to make further, major investment in the UK’s scientific real estate.
Ian Anderson, General Manager of Allflex Livestock Intelligence and Dawn Howard, Chief Executive of NOAH joined the panel, which drove an enlightening discussion about how the animal health industry contributes to overall expertise, R&D and innovation in the UK, and how this might be improved.
The panel discussed what reforms are needed to ensure the industry can achieve its full potential. Ian Anderson explained that the UK grant systems and the animal health pathway funding need to prioritise science and support the uptake of innovation, highlighting that “supporting the sector today will ensure innovation and success tomorrow”.
Dawn Howard outlined that NOAH members needed a regulatory framework that can enable the UK animal health sector to thrive. She said the opportunity is there, through the upcoming UK Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR) review, for the Government to reduce unnecessary red tape, which would encourage innovation, support competitiveness and increase the availability of veterinary medicinal products, thus supporting the Government’s scientific ambitions.
Dawn Howard, Chief Executive of NOAH said: “We were delighted that our panel has provided the forum to consider the challenges and opportunities facing our sector. We look forward to continuing to work with Lord Benyon on the topics discussed and seeing how we can support DEFRA to build on the UK reputation for excellent animal health and welfare, and to spread the word across other government departments about the potential our sector brings.
“NOAH members are at the forefront of delivering cutting-edge innovations. For example, pioneering new vaccines to prevent disease, diagnostic tools, digital technologies for livestock and pets, as well as real-time monitoring and surveillance of livestock to catch the first signs of any ill health.
“Our work benefits not only animals, but humans as well. Not many know that the veterinary vaccines research that NOAH champions gave scientists a head-start on developing the COVID-19 vaccine, for example. In a post-pandemic world, our members’ work, which helps to prevent animal disease and ensure that animals can be diagnosed and treated with greater accuracy, is vital.
“As the UK seeks to bring about a global Britain and deliver levelling up, we must create the conditions for the UK to become a world-leading exporter of animal health products, whilst ensuring that animals benefit from technologies developed by our members right here in the UK.
“For the UK’s life sciences industries and R&D sectors to flourish, it is critical that UK policy and regulatory frameworks encourage innovation and keep pace with new technologies.
“The industry and government must work together through the upcoming VMR review to drive forward the changes that are needed can allow the animal health industry to reach its full potential.”
Lord Benyon, Minister for Rural Affairs, Access to Nature and Biosecurity said: “We want livestock production to be supported by the best technology available, including through our Animal Health and Welfare Pathway and Livestock Information Programme.
“NOAH’s event has reiterated the importance of research and technology when it comes to boosting welfare standards, from farm to fork. Innovation has the potential to reduce disease and emissions, and increase productivity.”
Ian Anderson, General Manager of Allflex Livestock Intelligence said: “It is vital that we further utilise technology in the sector to monitor and provide data that support science-based decisions to improve farm productivity and encourage sustainability without compromising health and welfare standards.
“However, it is important to remember that animal health is not just about agriculture during the pandemic. We've seen a significant and rapid increase in households with pets with an estimated increase of 3 million new pets across the UK. Pet care is a vital part of the animal health sector and something that increased innovation would benefit greatly, improving the lives of people and the companion animals that share their homes.
“If the UK is focused on becoming a scientific superpower, we must first utilise all the science, innovation, and technology we already have available today and support the rapid update of new technologies as they become available.”