CEO Update | 19 October 2021

Speak up ahead of the Budget and Comprehensive Spending review, BIA AGM tomorrow, UK data produces positive Valneva COVID-19 vaccine data, apply for the Biomedical Catalyst this week and thanks to all of you who made the Bioscience Forum such a great event.

Next week the Chancellor will deliver the Comprehensive Spending Review and Budget. We are working hard to get our sector’s needs across to Ministers and Treasury officials.  In a final push this week we are coordinating letters from BIA members to the Chancellor calling on him to increase Innovate UK’s budget, plus protecting and expanding R&D tax credits. Please help by sending your own short email to the Chancellor, explaining how these things have helped your business, both to and  Martin Turner our Head of Policy and Public Affairs who is organising our efforts.

AGM tomorrow

Tomorrow we are holding our AGM. This is an important governance event for members only, which all members are invited to attend.  The meeting will be held from 16.30-17.15hrs. Members can access the meeting using the following Zoom Call Meeting ID: 836 5656 2615 using the password: 904576, or email if you need more information. We will be announcing the next Chair, the elected Board Directors and approving various financial processes.

Autumn conference launch for new BIA tech bio report

It was fantastic to see so many of you at our UK Bioscience Forum. The energy and enthusiasm of all our speakers and attendees just shows the value of getting together in person to discuss the big issues for our sector and crucially to network. 

I was delighted to welcome both the new Science Minister, George Freeman MP, to give a keynote address and also the CEO of Innovate UK, Indro Mukerjee, who delivered his first major speech to an industry audience.

The theme of the event was data and the huge promise it holds for drug discovery and delivering better healthcare for patients, which is showcased in a new report we launched at the event. Data-driven life sciences technology, or ‘tech bio’, is an area where the BIA is rapidly building its expertise and we will be working hard to bring together all elements of the landscape to ensure that these companies have the right policy framework and the investment that they need to grow and succeed.

I was delighted to be able to present Jonathan Milner with the BIA lifetime achievement award. The impact he has had on the UK sector is huge, not only founding one of the most successful biotech companies this country has seen (Abcam) but also supporting a huge cohort of promising young companies over the years, so many of which are in the BIA membership. Congratulations, Jonathan and thank you.

The Future of Healthcare Investment Forum at the London Stock Exchange also happened last week, on Tuesday. This event, which we co-sponsor, is aimed at educating generalist investors about what our sector can deliver, so who better to have deliver the keynote than Dame Kate Bingham, who talked about the success of the UK Vaccines Taskforce. You can watch the whole event here.

Positive Phase 3 data from Valneva’s COVID-19 vaccine

Another great result for UK life science this morning, in the form of positive phase 3 trial data for Valneva’s COVID-19 vaccine. This is a direct result of the speedy collaboration between the UK and Valneva established under the Vaccine Task Force last year, and shows the power of the UK as a partner to global biotech and as a clinical research powerhouse. The company continue to work closely with the MHRA to complete a rolling submission for approval. Having an inactivated whole virus vaccine in our arsenal will, I believe, make an important contribution to the global fight against COVID-19, and UK investment in their Scottish manufacturing facility means volume product can be scaled speedily.      

Let’s keep moving forward on the Northern Ireland Protocol

The EU set out its own proposals in response to the UK Government’s proposals to rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol last week to address problems for goods, including medicines, moving across the Irish Sea. As I said at the Bioscience Forum, the new EU proposals aren’t perfect but are detailed and nearer to a pragmatic solution for ensuring medicines access for patients in Northern Ireland than anything currently being presented to industry by the UK Government.

Even though they are a fudge, with inherent contradictions, and which will need bridging provisions to the future, they are a step forward. What industry doesn’t want is to go back to square one. The Government accepted compromises for centrally authorized products months ago and industry made the changes needed to accommodate that deal. Unpicking the knitting won’t move us forward. We continue to ensure our sector’s view is known to both sides as they enter a key period of negotiation.

Upcoming BIA events

We have a webinar coming up on Tuesday with UK government officials on how the National Security and Investment regime will work and what the sector definition of Synthetic Biology might mean for life sciences companies. We will be delving into the sector definition of Synthetic Biology, which the Government has now published. Understanding how this will apply to your company is crucial, so please do join us

Then on Wednesday do join us for an online event looking at digital skills and capability development in Stevenage, (where we sadly can’t go in person due to site COVID-19 policy for visitors). We will hear from a number of organisations who have found successful solutions to acquiring and developing talent and capability in the digital space. Sign up here.

Do register now for bioProcessUK taking place in Cardiff on 23-25 November, tickets are selling fast and we have a limited number.

New Biomedical Catalyst competition

The next round of the Biomedical Catalyst launched today. £12 Million is available to support industry-led Feasibility and Primer R&D projects that seek to provide solutions to health and care challenges.  Support is available for any life science sector or discipline, including medical technologies and devices, advanced therapies, digital health, drug discovery, and diagnostics. More information can be found here.