At a glance: The National Clinical Research Network

What is it? A national drugs trials agency, bringing together drugs firms and government to co-ordinate tests for new treatments.

So it’s a glorified database of drugs testers?

Thousands more patients will be asked to take part in drugs trials but, in PR terms, it provides a significant vehicle for boosting the pharma industry in this country. A government-backed report last year said that the creation of a co-ordinated trials agency was one of its main recommendations in the promotion of the biotech sector.

How will it help?

Combining the know-how of the NHS, the Medical Research Council, medical charities and the industry should speed up the creation of new treatments, meaning patients benefit from the latest developments. This should raise the profile of the UK.

And the industry has responded favourably?

Very much so. The BioIndustry Association CEO, Aisling Burnand, says: ‘Improving the UK’s clinical research infrastructure will help deliver new treatments and cures for patients, give the UK the opportunity to become the world-leading location for clinical research, and attract industry, academia and investment to the UK.’

Alright, so who has set it up?

Gordon Brown. Well, he announced it as part of the ‘ten-year plan’ for science, which will see NHS spending on research into conditions such as strokes, diabetes and mental health increase by £100m to £1.2bn by 2008.

And what does the Government hope to get out of it?

Health secretary John Reid said he wants ‘to make Britain the best place for research and development and innovation in the world’.

Nothing too grand then?

Your sarcasm is noted. The new network will be similar to the National Cancer Research Institute, which has doubled the number of patients recruited for clinical trials over the past three years and says this has enabled spending to go towards previously.

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