BIA response to COVID-19

The BIA are aware that the COVID 19 situation is moving fast. This blog has been created to keep you up to date with the latest research in the area, potential impact to medicine supply chains and SMEs, as well as providing the latest business planning advice.  

Last week the Government published a 28 page action plan to tackle the coronavirus. There are four phases to the plan: contain; delay; research; and mitigate.


Through this period the BIA will:  

  • co-ordinate member engagement with national and international research and scale up efforts
  • ensure members in the medicines supply chain have clear communication with the government
  • be a channel of communication for advice to businesses - especially from the Government and its agencies   


Research and scale up


The UK life sciences sector is working with global partners to find and scale up a vaccine candidate. Boris Johnson announced a £46m funding package which will support the work on eight possible vaccines and the development of a rapid test for the disease. This brings the total amount of government spending on tackling coronavirus to £91m, with £65m of this on vaccine research. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the organisation set up to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, also made an urgent call for $2 billion to support the development of a vaccine against the virus responsible for COVID-19. Their ambition is to have at least 3 vaccine candidates, which could be submitted to regulatory authorities for licensure for general use/use in outbreaks.


The BIA continues to facilitate the knowledge exchange between organisations in our network, and has been encouraged that this  has been found useful by key players on all sides, so if you have a question or can offer help in this area please do get in contact. We are pulling together a public facing document on what members are doing right now, let me know if you want your work to be included.


Medicines supply chain


The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) continues to work to understand how any changes to the global supply chain may impact the availability of medicines in the NHS. Steve Oldfield, who is leading this work on behalf of the Department has held several webinars with companies to share the Government’s approach.  They key things to be aware of are:


  • The Government understands that there is currently little short-term impact on medicines supply to the NHS but is aware that the situation is constantly evolving.  For example, India has placed restrictions on the export of 26 Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) last week.
  • The DHSC has established a Continuity of Supply Response Group, following Brexit preparedness planning model, involving the NHS, MHRA, DHSC and Devolved Administrations, with regular links to industry.
  • The Department is co-ordinating direct engagement with suppliers of potential treatments, supportive medicines and wider portfolios and has added two medicines to the Parallel Export Restriction list.
  • The Department is asking medicines suppliers to carry out internal supply chain risk assessments, to identify vulnerability in the supply chain of medicines and to share outcomes of assessment with DHSC. The Department is particularly keen to give consideration to short-term and longer-term scenarios as Covid-19 issues are likely to continue to evolve, including ensuring the global perspective is taken into account.
  • A survey will be issued to all marketing authorisation holders identified as having a critical geographical touchpoint impacted by Covid-19, and I would encourage you to respond to this survey as accurately as possible should you receive it.
  • The Government is also asking companies to retain any stockpiles of medicines that may remain in the UK following Brexit preparedness activity, as requested in a letter to MAHs on 11/2/20.


Business Planning Advice  


The following information may be useful to you in business planning terms.

  • COVID-19 Response Hub. The Government has created a ‘Response Hub’, which collates all the key guidance from the NHS and Public Health England. This is the key resource for the latest information and advice.
  • Guidance for the General Public. The guidance issued for the general public also includes a list of those ‘affected areas’ where it recommends that returning travellers stay indoors and ‘self-isolate’.
  • Guidance for employers and businesses. The Government has published guidance specifically to support employers and businesses with their preparations.  This provides guidance on what to do if someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in business settings; what advice to give to individuals who have travelled to specific areas; and actions to take if staff come into contact with someone who is self-isolating or is a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Public information campaign on hand washing. The Government is focusing its public information campaign on the need for hand washing, stressing the importance of washing hands more regularly and for twenty seconds.


If you do business with, or have facilities in the USA, BIO has pulled together this website of US focused advice to help think through business response to highly contagious diseases. Key elements include: US business continuity planning, travel policies, resources to address disruptions in your supply chain, and ways your organization can help.



Impact of disruption on SMEs and a period of innovation


Members are also making me aware of the impact on their businesses of the virtualisation of BIO Spring Europe, the cancelation of many business meetings by partners and disruption to their own supply chains. I am seeking innovative ideas as to how the BIA might be able to facilitate sector development especially in a period where much more home working may be happening.  What can we do to revolutionise Business Development if everyone is asked to work from home and can’t travel? Innovative ideas please. Likewise, if there are things you would like me to raise with government or other sector players, I am happy to do so. For example,  would you rather big conferences were postponed or go virtual, what relief on cashflow would work for SMEs if the Treasury was minded to do something?