The UK clinical trial landscape has undergone vast changes post the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, while the country is actively taking steps to maintain its place as a life sciences hub.

In this evolving backdrop, experts will discuss the future outlook of UK clinical trials and progress made in recent times at the upcoming 11th Annual Outsourcing in Clinical Trials UK & Ireland conference. Taking place in London from 11 – 12 June, the conference will gather experts across the pharmaceutical sector to discuss trends in the clinical landscape, including advancements in artificial intelligence (AI).

The event will begin with a keynote session, delving into the state of UK clinical trials. Professor Lucy Chappell, the chief scientific advisor at the Department of Health and Social Care will discuss the findings of the UK government’s 2023 clinical trial review and other ways in which the UK can continue to support clinical trials.

The May 2023 government clinical trial review found that despite a strong performance in patient recruitment for academically driven trials, enrolment for patients in commercial trials has been steadily falling over recent years. Furthermore, the UK is falling in the rankings, in terms of the number of initiated trials, dropping from 4th to 10th place from 2017 to 2022. The review, led by Lord James O’Shaughnessy, the former health minister, reported that this fall in patient recruitment for commercial clinical trials has already cost the National Health Service (NHS) approximately £360m over the past five years.

O’Shaughnessy will also be at the conference taking part in a panel on potential improvement for the UK clinical trial landscape on 11 June. He will be joined by experts such as Janet Valentine, the executive director of innovation and research policy, at the Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry, and Andrew Ustianowski, the network director of the North West Regional Research Delivery Network at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

AI in Pharma

Aside from a focus on the UK ecosystem, the upcoming conference will cover technological advancements in clinical studies, such as the digitalisation of clinical trials and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) on its first day. At the “Artificial Intelligence in Pharma” session, Josep Bori, the research director of GlobalData’s thematics division, will discuss the AI and generative AI (genAI) market and potential risks associated with this technology.

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GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.

In an exclusive email interview with Pharmaceutical Technology, Bori said, “In my opinion, the most exciting area is AI-driven drug discovery, as it goes way beyond automation and digitalisation, and rather revolutionises the pharma industry.” He lists molecular models such as Google DeepMind’s AlphaFold as exciting developments. “It will [soon] be possible to predict the shape of proteins as well as the structures of DNA, RNA and other molecules, such as ligands. This should allow us to predict how the human body would react to certain candidate compounds, effectively speeding up the drug development process,” he says.

However, potential risks surrounding the use of large language models in (LLMs) or genAI remain, he cautioned.

On day two, delegates will discuss topics such as ins and outs of vendor agreement negotiations, vaccine clinical trials, among other topics dealing with clinical trial logistics.

The 11th Annual Outsourcing in Clinical Trials UK & Ireland conference will take place in London from 11 – 12 June. The agenda for the meeting can be found here.