Regulation matters: BHP expert appointed to UK’s new Regulatory Horizon Council

Professor Alastair Denniston, Lead for Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare at Birmingham Health Partners’ Centre for Regulatory Science and Innovation, has been appointed to the UK government’s new Regulatory Horizon Council.

The Council is a government-backed, independent expert committee, established to ensure that UK regulation keeps pace with innovation and enables it to thrive while safeguarding the public. As a Council member, Alastair will assist the committee in:

      • Identifying areas of regulatory reform needed to facilitate the rapid and safe development of innovative products and services
      • Prioritising innovations with high potential value for the UK’s people and economy
      • Horizon-scanning of technological innovation and opportunities for further development

Commenting on his appointment, Alastair explained: “This is a critical moment in the life of the UK, adapting to both Brexit and COVID-19.  I would hope that we can take this unique moment to innovate and reform the regulatory space to become dramatically faster,  more efficient, more transparent, more accessible; to accelerate the way it brings products, services and businesses with high potential benefit through to the user, rapidly disseminating wider benefit not only for individuals but for the wider UK economy and society; and doing this while preserving – or even enhancing – the protection of our citizens and environment. The Regulatory Horizons Council will play a key role in driving forward this change.”

Alastair DennistonAlastair works across Birmingham Health Partners (BHP) as both a Consultant Ophthalmologist at University Hospitals Birmingham and Honorary Professor at the University of Birmingham. He leads an active clinical research programme in eye health supporting the safe development and evaluation of diagnostic tests, and improving the design and reporting of clinical trials, including of AI interventions.

As part of Birmingham Health Partners’ Centre for Regulatory Science and Innovation, Alastair leads on the ‘AI in healthcare’ theme. Launched in May 2020, the Centre for Regulatory Science and Innovation supports the development and delivery of novel therapeutics and medical devices in the UK, through advanced regulatory standards and tools. With life sciences critical to the UK’s economy, regulatory reform will provide the near-term business viability and long-term sector sustainability needed to allow the UK to fulfil its potential as a global leader in regulatory science.

Experts from the Centre recently called for a coherent and specific national strategy for regulatory science – including training, funding and cross-disciplinary working – in a unique report which can be downloaded here: Advancing Regulatory Science and Innovation in Healthcare Report.

Alastair is also Director of INSIGHT – the UK’s Health Data Research Hub for Eye Health which, with over 10 million ophthalmic images, is the world’s largest ophthalmic imaging bioresource. He recently contributed to the NHS-X report ‘Artificial Intelligence – how to get it right’ and is a member of multiple AI and health data working groups including the HDR-UK Uniting and Improving Data Group and the AI Evaluation Task Force (Accelerated Access Collaborative and FutureGov).

Reflecting on the opportunity that the Regulatory Horizon Council provides to the UK, Alastair notes: “I believe we have an opportunity to visibly move the UK from a place where we are simply responding and reacting, to one where we are internationally recognised as leading and acting in this critical area.”

The five new members have a cross cutting understanding of innovation and regulation and will initially serve a 2 year term. The other members are: Dr Andy Greenfield, Programme Leader at the Medical Research Council’s Harwell Institute; Matt Ridley, self-employed writer and businessman; Professor Joyce Tait, Professor and Co-Director at the Innogen Institute, University of Edinburgh; Dr Parag Vyas, Director of PV10 Consult.

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