CEO Update | 13 June 2022

BIO in San Diego, TRIPs at the WTO and a new bill on Northern Irish protocol make it a busy week for me.

It’s great to see so many members and old friends in San Diego for this year’s BIO conference in person. On Sunday our UK community gathered in the diner where the bar scenes for the original “Top Gun” film were shot in the 1980s, and I reminded them that it was only because he made a seminal UK car advert for SAAB that Brit Tony Scott got his breakthrough Hollywood job as the Director of the Tom Cruise classic. That route – from UK innovation to global success - is one we can follow.  So I’m backing our own band of “Mavericks” to deliver their own blockbusters. To keep with the Top Gun theme- if you feel the need, the need for speed for your biotech... Know the UK is the place to come.

I’ve been telling everyone you get the biggest bang for your biotech buck in Britain. It’s because the UK has great science. Today we have globally leading institutions in key contemporary fields like genomics. Geographically small enough to make travel easy and eco-friendly by train, the UK is home to the third global cluster for life sciences - our entrepreneurial ecosystem has everything . Research intensity, global companies partnering with a plethora of innovators, and the vital experienced support structures of lawyers, capital markets, human resources to grow businesses fast. Our experienced community have a proven track record of delivery in clinical trials, manufacturing, intellectual property, and regulatory strategy – shown to the world in the innovation and pace of the UK’s vaccine development and rollout -  as just a few of the skill sets available cost effectively in the UK.

London, more than any single US city, is at the confluence of tech and bio - it’s where the Crick Institute, Europe’s largest biomedical research centre, is just a baseball throw away from Google’s Deepmind AI campus. And it was great to see the affirmation of this last week with the launch of new Tech bio company Charm therapeutics with a $50m series A raise.

To those who don’t know our community, I say it’s simple to do business in the UK with the advantage of the English language, steady rule of law, with welcoming globally-minded cities where it is easy to study, work, live and raise a family.

The UK is particularly lucky to have an open and enabling medicines regulation regime and regulator - innovating access to novel products. Best proven in AMR, where UK practice leads the world in revaluing these key novel goods. The MHRA has a deep interest and growing capacity in AI in drug development, drug device combinations and the proven experience of pace and partnership working from COVID. 

Details of who is speaking where and the UK meet ups taking place at BIO can be found here

TRIPS at the World Trade Organisation

In Geneva, Ministers from around the globe are meeting for the World Trade Organisation’s first Ministerial council for a number of years. Indeed this is, for the U.K., its first WTO ministerial since Brexit. It’s the week when the TRIPs waiver discussion comes to a head. Outside the EU, the UK and Swiss delegations have been leading the globe in pointing out the lack of scientific evidence for, or practical impact of, the proposals championed by the WTO DG – something that has been noted positively in global boardrooms. The BIA , through the ICBA, have joined the global industry coalition making the case that weakening the intellectual property (IP) framework as proposed in the “Quad compromise” is unnecessary and harmful to innovation. An IP waiver does not address inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and will put global health security at risk. It will undermine innovation and industry’s ability to partner, invest at risk, and respond quickly to future pandemics. As Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK Secretary of State for International Trade, carries the future of our sector on her shoulders this week, I’ll be watching carefully and providing comment.

Northern Ireland protocol discussions

If newspaper talk and Westminster speculations are to be believed, this is the week the UK government will unveil new legislation that it hopes will cut through the stuck Northern Ireland protocol discussions. With partners, we’ve already pointed out to the UK government the progress made on medicines as a result of detailed technical discussion and compromise and we certainly don’t want things to go backwards as a result of a renewed stand off. We’ve already seen the damage this ongoing discussion has had to the UK speedily joining Horizon Europe, as the PM’s Brexit deal envisaged, and the poor reception for UK government proposals with key communities in the USA. There is still much to resolve in terms of the future regulatory working for the MHRA which positive relations between the UK and EU could make far simpler for our industry. One to watch with care.

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Steve Bates OBE
CEO, BioIndustry Association