“Life sciences is key to the future of the NHS” - Professor Tim Orchard

Professor Tim Orchard, chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, delivered the following speech at the Paddington Life Sciences launch event at IQVIA on 14th June 2023. He shares the major role of life sciences in the future of the NHS and the vision for our growing life sciences cluster in Paddington


The NHS’s 75th anniversary is a time to celebrate our past, but more importantly, a time to think about our future. Now more than ever, life sciences is key to the future of the NHS and we must make sure the NHS is key to the future of life sciences in this country.


 St Mary’s, one of our major research and teaching hospitals, is situated on a site in Paddington uniquely well-suited to healthcare innovation. Paddington is already home to a range of life sciences-related businesses and other community and voluntary sector organisations. Between us all, we have a huge amount of expertise and experience and we want to do much more to join it up to generate as much health, economic and social value as possible - locally, nationally and globally.

This forms the vision for Paddington Life Sciences – a collaboration between the NHS, academia, industry and organisations representing local people and businesses in Paddington, to drive healthcare innovation.

Paddington Life Sciences builds on a long legacy of partnership between clinical research and clinical practice on the St Mary’s site stretching back for nearly a century, from Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928, to more recently, the influential REACT study led by St Mary’s clinicians. Together with Imperial College London, we host the largest NIHR biomedical research centre in the country, which conducted over 1,000 active research projects last year, a ten per cent increase on the previous year.

A new chapter of health care innovation

So, we’re not new to research but we are embarking on a new chapter of health care innovation. Life sciences is an industry already worth £94bn in Britain and with huge potential to grow, for the benefit of business but also, of course, the local and national economy and for individuals, in terms of new treatments and diagnostics.

The NHS is doing much to contribute – and has the potential to do even more. I’ll highlight three examples of where I think we can do more together.

Firstly, the UK has four of the world’s top ten universities – the academic engines of life sciences research. This includes our academic partner, Imperial College London. We have long established mechanisms for clinicians of all types to have dual roles as researchers and educators. This symbiosis between research and clinical practice enables us rapidly to translate new discoveries into new diagnostics and treatments and to evaluate them for wider spread as quickly as possible.

Secondly, NHS hospitals are embedded in our local communities. We, like many other big public sector institutions, are beginning to use our role as a major local employer and consumer as well as a trusted partner to leverage benefits with - and for - our local communities. And we have increasingly realised that we can also use our position as an ‘anchor institution’ to act as a connector – helping to link thousands of patients, and the millions of local people we serve, to the wider life sciences ecosystem. Together, this can enable us to open up and diversify research and clinical trials, to build local skills and create local jobs and to involve more people in shaping and improving their own health and healthcare.

Thirdly, we are beginning to understand and make the most of the potential of our amazing data assets – no other health system in the world has the breadth or depth of the NHS’s health data. We have a particular interest in data and our digital health team is now housed in our first initiative within Paddington Life Sciences – a new digital collaboration space. From there, they provide state-of-the-art management and analysis of the huge amount of health data routinely collected across our five hospitals and collaborate with the wider North West London Integrated Care System on a complementary data set from our diverse population of 2.4 million people.

Collaboration is going to be key

We want to make the most of our position in Paddington – whose regeneration and now incredible transport infrastructure, including the Elizabeth Line, has already drawn leading pharmaceutical, biotech, data and technology businesses to the area, joining major local landowners with significant life sciences interests, to build links with other life science clusters, including those in London, especially Imperial College’s campus at White City.

Establishing a more structured collaboration, centred around St Mary’s, with the formation of Paddington Life Sciences Partners is now creating a life sciences ecosystem opening up a range of opportunities to expand and accelerate innovation and to improve health and wellbeing, locally and globally.

We have a great foundation already with our partners in Paddington Life Sciences and have collaboration opportunities and some space available now. But we need to grow. Redevelopment of the St Mary’s estate – central London’s most important remaining regeneration site, nine acres of prime real estate – is crucial to realising our vision. We are continuing to explore, with the support of the New Hospital Programme, a range of practical funding and design options to ensure a full re-build of St Mary's Hospital by 2023.

A huge opportunity is for some of our surplus land to be used to support the expansion of our life sciences cluster. So, as well as a new 840-bed, research-led hospital, we would be able to deliver mixed-use commercial and lab space for life sciences businesses to start, develop and grow, alongside thousands of high quality new jobs.

We’re very excited about the development of Paddington Life Sciences – our collaboration is already generating new opportunities and there is much more ahead.