CEO Update | 05 July 2021

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies UK investment announcement

Fantastic news last week, that BIA member Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies will be making a sizeable investment to add development and manufacturing capacity for biologics and advanced therapies into its UK manufacturing operation. 

This investment will see gene therapy production increase ten-fold, cell culture capacity will be tripled and microbial fermentation output at the existing 5,000L scale facility will be doubled. The cell culture expansion will also include cGMP capacity for continuous manufacturing.

It is great news that a key global player has invested such a significant amount of money in its UK operation and by doing so will substantially increase its manufacturing footprint in key strategic technologies. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies and the workers at its Billingham plant on Teesside have been critical to the UK’s efforts to manufacture and scale up COVID-19 vaccines. This announcement is validation for their tremendous work during the pandemic and of the thriving biotech and life sciences sector that we have here in the UK.

Launch of three ATSTN training centres and Kate Bingham tour of Northeast of England

The good news continues to come out of the North East of England, with the official launch of the Advanced Therapies Skills and Training Network (ATSTN) training centres with the ceremonial ribbon being cut by Steve Bagshaw CBE, Vaccine Manufacturing Lead on the Government’s Vaccine Taskforce, at the National Horizon’s Centre.

The National Training Centres (Roslin CT, National Horizons Centre and the University of Birmingham) will provide people with advanced career opportunities and access to essential training, helping to expand the advanced therapy and vaccine manufacturing workforce. The ATSTN initiative is backed by £4.7m in funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy alongside Innovate UK, and is driven by industry and coordinated by the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. More details here.

It was great to see that Kate Bingham, former chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce (VTF), visited Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies , CPI and the National Horizon’s Centre seeing first hand the  innovation that has taken place this year in the region built upon the strong triple helix partnership between government, industry and academia to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, which Kate spearheaded through the VTF.

Subsidy control

The Government has published its planned legislation for the UK’s new subsidy control (State aid) regime, which will govern support for our sector, such as Innovate UK grants and R&D tax credits. Over the past few years, the BIA has campaigned for the UK to diverge from the EU’s State aid rule known as Undertakings in Difficulty, which prevented or hindered biotech companies’ access to Innovate UK grant funding. We are pleased to see that the Government appears to have heeded these calls, with the legislation providing a much more reasonable approach to identifying companies that are truly failing and should not receive State support. Our Finance and Tax Advisory Committee is looking at this in more detail and we will engage with the legislation as it passes through Parliament.   


NICE survey

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is conducting an important research project to understand views and experiences of NICE, looking at how it operates, its work and resources, and its strategic ambitions.  The results will be presented to NICE’s Board, and those sharing their views will play an important part in shaping the work that they do.

To take part, complete this short survey, which should take approximately 10 minutes, by the close of business on 16 July.

Recognition for UK ecosystem at EuropaBio 25 Anniversary celebrations

I am delighted that as a part of EuropaBio’s 25th Anniversary celebrations, LifeArc, Illumina and Deepmind have been nominated to be showcased among the most significant scientific breakthroughs of the last 25 years. LifeArc was nominated for their ‘Checkpoint inhibitor innovation as key part of cancer immunotherapy’, Deepmind for ‘First large-scale application of AI to protein structure determination: AlfaFold’ and Illiumina for ‘Globally accessible Gene Sequencing Technology’. For further information please follow this link.