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Cameron Pledges $282 Million to Spur U.K. Medical Innovation

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Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister David Cameron pledged 180 million pounds ($282 million) to help turn the most promising British medical breakthroughs into commercial realities.

The Biomedical Catalyst fund aims to bridge “the valley of death” funding gap that kills off many early-stage innovations, Cameron said in a speech in London today. He also vowed to speed the arrival of new drugs and technologies in the state-run National Health Service, targeting areas where treatments are urgently needed such as brain and lung cancer.

“I want to see the great discoveries of the next decade happening in British labs, the new technologies born in British start-ups and proven in British hospitals,” Cameron said. “The end-game for the NHS is to be working hand-in-glove with industry as the fastest adopter of new ideas in the world, acting as huge magnet to pull new innovations through, right along the food chain from the labs to the boardrooms to the hospital bed.”

The catalyst fund seeks to support the development of medical treatments until investors are willing to back them, Cameron said. Other measures announced today would allow patient records and other NHS data to be shared with researchers, a move critics say may compromise patient confidentiality. The data would be anonymous and patients would be given the right to opt out, Cameron said.

‘Playing a Part’

“The end result would be that every willing patient is a research patient,” Cameron said. “That every time you use the NHS you’re playing a part in the fight against disease, at home and around the world.”

Meanwhile, three million patients are to receive equipment allowing them to send tests carried out at home direct to doctors, Cameron said. Trials of “telehealth” have been a “huge success” and the program will be rolled out across the country over the next five years, he said.

“This is going to make an extraordinary difference to people,” Cameron said. “Diabetics taking their blood sugar levels at home and having them checked by a nurse. Heart-disease patients having their blood pressure and pulse rate checked without leaving their home.”

AstraZeneca Plc announced today it would make 22 clinical compounds available to academia as part of a collaboration with the Medical Research Council. Scientists will make research proposals for the compounds and the council will select the best proposals for funding worth a total of 10 million pounds.

AstraZeneca will retain the rights to the chemical composition of the compounds, while any new research will be owned by the academic institution, the company said today in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Atkinson in London at a.atkinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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