CEO Update - 18 March 2024

One year on from SVB – hope you enjoyed a much more relaxed weekend this year  

A year ago, the life sciences sector faced a significant challenge with the SVB UK collapse. This event threatened to disrupt vital research and development for many companies. Today, we're taking a moment to reflect on that experience and share valuable resources to help us all build a more resilient future. 

During the crisis, the BIA played a critical role in advocating for the sector and facilitating a solution with the government. We worked tirelessly to ensure access to essential funds and protect ongoing innovation. 

We invite you to read the story of that weekend and watch our interviews with key players. 

NICE commits to introducing after-action reviews 

NICE has published its response to its recent consultation on changes to its cost recovery mechanism for technology appraisals. NICE’s response includes a commitment to implement ‘after-action reviews’ after guidance publication, to provide an opportunity for a two-way feedback loop between NICE and the company and ensure a consistent high-quality service. The introduction of after-action reviews was one of the recommendations in the BIA's consultation response, and we believe that it will help NICE deliver increased value for companies by driving continual improvements to its processes. 

Relation Therapeutics $35 million TechBio raise    

I was delighted to see that Relation Therapeutics raised $35 million from leading investors including DCVC, NVIDIA, Deerfield, ARK, Magnetic and others. The fundraise cements David Roblin’s company as a leader in the emerging TechBio economy, having featured in this useful Nature Biotechnology piece giving insight into their bone biology work.  

UKRI announce 48 engineering biology R&D projects  

Congrats to the 48 projects getting funded by UKRI’s Technology Missions Fund, delivered by Innovate UK announced last week. The new projects will use engineering biology to tackle challenges in the fields of health, environment, food production and sustainability. Good to see many SME BIA members accessing this award stream. 

Government skills announcement heralds investment in UK life science  

In a £1 billion government announcement that failed to hit the headlines last week, there was significant investment announced for our sector. Three things jumped out at me. The Medicines Manufacturing consortium was announced. This will be an academic consortium led by the University of Birmingham charged with establishing a £4.5 million medicines manufacturing skills centre of excellence. The centre, RESILIENCE, will include a network of academic and not-for-profit partners developing specialist training and accelerator programmes for those qualified to T-levels, to graduates to training opportunities in work. The Medicines Manufacturing consortium involves the University of Birmingham, UCL, Teesside University (NHC), Heriot-Watt University and Britest LTD. 

Secondly, OLS will launch this month a competition to select a delivery partner for the £3 million Science & Technology Venture Capital Fellowship Programme competition launch unveiled in November’s Autumn Statement. This is a vital scheme if we are to grow the community of life science investors in the UK to be globally competitive.  

And finally, the announcement of the successful doctoral training centres in UK academia was unveiled. These included new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) in Engineering and AI, but none in bioprocessing, which has been an important mainstay for our industry in recent years. The full list is available and I look forward to hearing from members on the implications of this funding.  

Policies from beyond the UK that will impact our sector  

I’ve been keeping a close eye on developments in both Brussels and Washington DC over the last week. Significant pieces of legislation in both will have an effect on our sector going forward. In the USA our partners at BIO publicly backed the BIOSECURE Act currently going through Congress. New BIO President & CEO, John F. Crowley said, “Biotechnology is a vital strategic asset that is essential to strengthen and protect our public health generally, and as well in response to future pandemics and the potential for bioterrorism. It is also an essential element of our ability to project abroad the principles and benefits of a free and democratic society.” A good primer on what the Act means - one to watch closely.  

In Europe, the General Pharmaceutical Legislation went through important staging posts at the European Parliament last week, before the package is put to the Council of Ministers soon. EuropaBio (of which we are a proud and founder member) have been engaged on the detail for many months (and will be for months ahead) so it was pleasing to see that some of the most egregious proposals are no longer in the legislative package thanks to their hard work. I am seeking a suitable slot for EuropaBio experts to brief members on this important piece of legislation where Europe may choose to make its market less attractive to life science companies than the UK.  

Texas deal  

Also last week the UK signed a trade pact with Texas to boost investment and trade cooperation. The UK government press release states that the pact will benefit key sectors including energy, life sciences, and professional services. The core of this for our sector is a celebration of the UK Government’s landmark ‘BioBridge’ collaboration with the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical complex, which the UK government states has already supported more than 30 innovative UK life sciences companies to grow their businesses in Texas. I am keen to hear members' views on how helpful this has been for UK biotech.  

Spotlight on events

Great to see our Engineering Biology Advisory Committee (EBAC) vice chair Sara Holland chair a panel that explored the role of AI in engineering biology at IBioIC 2024 in Glasgow last week. The BIA team also discussed Deep Biotech with attendees and hosted a BIA table at the Scottish Life Sciences Dinner and Awards. Congratulations to all the winners!

The big Women in Biotech event in Cambridge drew 230+ attendees for a full day of connecting, supporting and inspiring future sector leaders. The day started with an exclusive ‘World Café’ round table event for our mentoring programme participants and moved on to a packed agenda of stellar speakers and panellists, covering investment, organisational culture, roles of mentors and authentic leadership – all topped off with amazing networking and cocktails.

Steve Bates Headshot.png



Steve Bates OBE
CEO, BioIndustry Association

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