London: A Global Hub for Life Sciences


A summary of the 2022 Healthcare Conference, which discussed the opportunities that exist for London to establish itself as a central player in global life sciences

On Wednesday 19th October 2022, The Howard de Walden Estate hosted a conference entitled London: A Global Hub for Life Sciences, which drew together important participants in healthcare, life sciences, business, property and law. The aim of the event was to discuss the opportunities that exist for London to establish itself as an established location in the global life science arena.


Rt Hon Professor Lord Kakkar KBE, PC
Chairman, King’s Health Partners, Director, Thrombosis Research Institute

The conference was chaired by Lord Kakkar, who explained that life sciences are a key part of not only the improvement of our nation’s health, but also as the generator of wealth and prosperity. Discussions like this help life sciences businesses and institutions develop in the most effective fashion to deliver both commercial and wider societal success.


Sir Robert Lechler FRCP, FRCPath, FMedSci
Senior Vice President/Provost (Health) and Executive Director, King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre

Sir Robert outlined the challenges faced by the UK healthcare system, including an unsustainable rise in costs, staff shortages, health inequality, and a vulnerable research system. However, the sheer pace at which biomedical science is moving provides remarkable opportunities. Breakthroughs in the understanding of many disease processes, increasing communications between disciplines and the huge research potential offered by large-scale datasets are real advantages. Artificial intelligence and other technologies present us with the opportunity to re-engineer the NHS in ways that embed more effective treatment pathways. It will take bold and insightful leadership, but with its universities, research institutes, major hospitals, finance sector, cultural assets, infrastructure and an existing life sciences presence, London has the foundations for a world-class life sciences hub.

Sir Robert Lechler

Sir Robert Lechler


Dr Annalisa Jenkins MBBS, FRCP
Chairman of the Court, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Director, Cyte Ltd

Dr Jenkins set out what is needed for the UK to become a real “science superpower”. Among the core principles she sees as vital are increased interdisciplinary collaboration, which accelerates the generation of new ideas and delivers better results, and effective regulation, which is perceived as fair, data driven and highly effective. There is also a need to develop inclusive cultures that attract and retain the best and brightest from the widest spread of cultural backgrounds. Dr Jenkins believes that this last concept is key and is an aspect in which the UK could improve.

Martin Murphy
Chief Executive Officer, Syncona Investment Management Ltd

Martin Murphy highlighted the need for first-class capital asset management. Understanding the capital flow through projects that can last a decade and cost up to a billion dollars takes skill and experience. These are complex investments in a specialist sector, and we need to build the asset management skills that will allow us to develop informed investors. Martin believes the UK is making huge progress but is still very undercapitalised. There is not enough of a connection with London’s financial industry, which controls billions of pounds of funding and is looking for profitable projects to invest in.

Professor Tony Young OBE
Surgeon and National Clinical Lead for Innovation, NHS England, Director of Medical Innovation, Anglia Ruskin University

Prof Young talked about the struggles he faced trying to build a small life sciences company while working in the NHS. His bosses often tried to stop him doing so, with ‘profit’ often regarded as a dirty word. However, times are changing, and it is now his job to help NHS workers who come up with great ideas and develop the companies that can deliver them. He spoke about the benefit of having 248 clinicians who had returned to working in the NHS having not being forced to choose between running a business or working in the NHS.

HSMA Healthcare Conference
HSMA Healthcare Conference


Simon Denegri OBE
Executive Director, Academy of Medical Sciences

As a key voice for biomedical and health research, the Academy of Medical Sciences has an eye on the future, supporting young scientists with grants and initiative programmes. Integrating the voices of early-career researchers and the Academy’s world-class body of fellows to form fruitful relationships is an integral to its work. Simon Denegri talked about the Academy’s 10-year strategy and the AcMedSci Cross-Sector Programme, which helps people move between sectors, increasing the possibilities for collaboration and innovation. He also talked about the Academy’s efforts to engage patients, carers and the wider public. To build a healthy life sciences sector, you have to involve all those who are using the services.

Sir Rory Collins FMedCi, FRS
Emeritus Senior Vice President (Health), King’s College London, President, Academy of Medical Sciences

Sir Rory talked about randomised clinical trials, which he sees as Britain’s greatest contribution to medicine. Through drift, old habits and poor leadership, the process has lost its way, with intrusive regulation watering down the effectiveness of trials. He gave a striking example of how during Covid ‘old fashioned’ clinical trials discovered the first effective treatment for the most severely ill patients – dexamethasone – while maintaining participants’ safety. The Covid experience has shown us a way to update the framework for randomised trials, staying true to the original principles while benefiting from modern medical and technical advances. A new framework will require input from with regulators, funders, academics, pharma, trialists and patients, and the UK is the best place in the world to make this work.

Hanno Ronte
Partner, Monitor Deloitte

One of the key concepts that ran through the discussions was the life science ‘cluster’. Hanno Ronte defined a cluster as a group of similar, related or complementary businesses and institutions characterised by four key traits: geographical proximity; a critical mass of institutions and specialised labour; established linkages; and regular interactions. Collaboration leads to better products, services and outcomes, and in turn attracts people and companies. Hanno’s advice was to first agree on what a successful London life sciences ecosystem looks like, then define a narrative about what a London life sciences hub is about. Also have patience, think in decades as opposed to years, have a clear plan, but give yourselves the time to implement it.

Dr Brian Donley, Dame Anne Rafferty, Mark Kildea and Lord Kakkar

Dr Brian Donley, Dame Anne Rafferty, Mark Kildea and Lord Kakkar


Mark Kildea 
Chief Executive, The Howard de Walden Estate

Mark Kildea said that as a landowner with an ambition to bring life more sciences into its portfolio, The Howard de Walden Estate is seeking to understand how it can adapt some of its building stock in a way that enriches London’s current and future healthcare ecosystem. Most life science companies have fewer than 20 employees, an important factor in identifying potential locations. There is a demand for space in the Harley Street Medical Area and Mark believes that with detailed analysis and innovative thinking this demand can be met. There are challenges, as life sciences is a high-risk area when compared to the traditional property markets – creating and maintaining wet labs, for example, is a highly specialised skill. However, the opportunities far outweigh the challenges.

Dr Brian Donley
Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland Clinic London

Dr Donley explained why Cleveland Clinic made the biggest capital investment in the company’s 101-year history to come to London. They see the UK as a place to learn, innovate and become part of the wider medical community, drawing on the deep expertise that exists here, as well as sharing some of the best practices they have developed in the US. He also talked about people. Both Brexit and Covid happened while he was overseeing the hospital build. He said that throughout the process, the quality and drive of the staff in London had been extraordinary, and one of the main reasons they were able to achieve what they had. He truly believes it could not have been achieved anywhere else in the world.

Rt Hon Dame Anne Rafferty
Former Lord Justice of Appeal, High Court of Justice

Dame Anne talked about the huge advantages the UK legal system gives London. Five of the world’s largest law firms have their main base in the UK. Four of the world’s top 20 revenue-generating law firms are based here. English law is the law of choice for 40% of all global corporate arbitration, underpinning hundreds of trillions of pounds of global trade. Our judiciary and legal services are a beacon of excellence, acting as a magnet to international investment by providing predictable law. The commercial side of the life sciences sector is a fast-moving, complex area of law and being in London gives companies based here a significant competitive advantage.


Sir Jonathan Symonds
Chairman, GSK

Sir Jonathan explained that it is all too easy to rush through the process of strategy development and head forward too quickly. London has all the ingredients for a successful life science strategy, but the quality of leadership will determine whether what is delivered is a collection of excellent assets or a cohesive life sciences hub. In the financial and life science sectors, London has two world class industries, but they exist as parallel universes with virtually no contact. This needs to be addressed urgently. The UK massively over-delivered when it came to tackling Covid – developing the first effective treatment, producing an effective vaccine, sequencing the pathogens that identified changing variants. This came from bringing together the UK science base. We showed the world and ourselves that what we have to offer can be so much greater than the sum of our already outstanding parts. What we now need are strategies that allow us to repeat that on a consistent long-term basis.