More than 300 delegates - patients, charities, industry, research bodies, funders and government - gathered at The Royal College of Physicians on Monday 28 November for the inaugural Patients First meeting.
Hosted jointly by the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the conference brought together patients and representatives from across the medical research sector to explore how they can collaborate to put patients first and ultimately deliver them the best outcomes.
“We were delighted to be joined by everyone in the medical research sector and greatly valued their input as we explored how patients can be kept at the centre of medical research,” said Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive of AMRC.
“We face a challenging time of potential serious health epidemics – including dementia in our ageing population, cancer and diabetes – and all within a climate of economic uncertainty. It is vital that the sector pulls together to address these challenges with patients and their families at the heart of what we do.”
A stimulating mix of eminent speakers took to the stage, including: Jane Taylor (Chair of Patient Insight Group for Arthritis Research UK), Nicola Blackwood MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health & Innovation, Department of Health), David Montgomery (Medical Director, Pfizer Oncology UK), Hilary Evans (CEO, Alzheimer’s Research UK), Nicola Perrin (Head of Policy, Wellcome Trust), Kay Warner (Director, Focus on the Patient, GlaxoSmithKline), Nick Robinson (journalist – speaking as a patient), Aisling Burnand (CEO, AMRC), and Mike Thompson (CEO, ABPI).
''As a patient who has lived for 30 years with rheumatoid arthritis, I know from my own experience what good medical research can do," said Jane Taylor, Chair of Arthritis Research UK’s Patient Insight Group. “However, too often research is still done on the patient rather than with the patient. This conference is a recognition that engaging with the patient's lived experience and understanding of the effects of their condition is crucial and a huge resource in getting better health outcomes and more effective treatments for everyone.''
In plenary sessions that ran throughout the day, delegates from across the medical research sector explored opportunities for collaboration and sharing best practice, covering a range of critical topics including: patient data, drug development, genomics and stratified medicine, digital health technology and much more.
“Our industry is on the brink of some great discoveries, with some 7,000 medicines in the pipeline,” said Mike Thompson, Chief Executive of ABPI. “As medicines development becomes increasingly complex and we enter an era of ever more personalised medicines, it’s absolutely critical that patients are involved at every step.”
To ensure the commitment to cross-sector collaboration lives beyond the conference, partnering networking sessions were facilitated during the day.
“By pooling resources and expertise, and by working innovatively and collaboratively, the medical research sector can step out of the current health and economic shadows and embrace the extremely bright and positive outlook for medical research in the UK,” said Aisling Burnand. “Now more than ever, we must realise the potential for our medical research sector to lead the way in patient-centred research that delivers the outcomes patients deserve. It is my hope that the conference is just the start of a conversation, and proves the impetus needed for much more cross-sector collaboration in medical research going forward.”