CEO Update - 24 June 2024

UK General Election

In two Newscasts time, we will know the outcome of the UK General Election to be held on Thursday, 4 July. Join our webinar tomorrow at 1pm where we will discuss what we have learned from the campaigns and manifestoes about potential future policies and people important for our sector after the result. I hope this timely summary will give you what you need to be ready for the key change in our ecosystem this summer. Of course, we will also update after the result on the early days of the next government and parliament.

UK Foreign Office supports African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator 

Away from the election campaign, Foreign Secretary David Cameron was at the Gavi Investment Opportunity and African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA) launch in Paris last Thursday. The AVMA is an innovative financial mechanism, designed by Gavi in close collaboration with Africa CDC, to help vaccine manufacturers in Africa and support regional diversification of vaccine manufacturing.

The UK government has pledged the reallocation of £49 million towards AVMA’s launch, as part of Gavi’s successful recovery of COVID-19 funds to enhance vaccine equity and improve global pandemic preparedness. In case you have missed it, the UK is a leading supporter of Gavi. Since its inception, the UK has invested £5.5 billion, helping immunise over a billion of the world’s children and save 17 million lives.

However, I see this as a real missed opportunity for joined-up government and industry working in the UK. There is no connection between this initiative and the great work we are doing on training the next generation of staff needed to successfully run innovative medicines manufacturing, nor engagement with the regulatory regime needed to approve innovative vaccines at scale and pace, let alone overcome the trade barriers of the global supply chain for these types of products. It really feels as if the UK joined upness of the vaccine taskforce days has dissipated since the pandemic and despite well-meaning and strong initiatives the UK is not making the most of the strong and varied ecosystem we have. There is a real opportunity for joined-up leadership after the election.

ARIA call ‘Safeguarded AI’

ARIA (the UK Advanced Innovation and Research Agency) is looking for the next phase of applications for the Safeguarded AI program in early summer.

It’s an open call, where they want to fund teams that can leverage their AI ‘gatekeeper’ workflow to address valuable, high-impact applications of AI that require stronger guarantees of performance than is possible today. The brainy bunch have a thesis on this and are interested in customer/deployment-oriented technology teams who see value in safeguarding autonomous AI systems or providing critical decision-support tools in a variety of high-value/impact applications e.g. energy system optimisation; infectious disease epidemiology; climate and weather prediction; aircraft and spaceflight dynamics; and control systems for robots in human environments. They are also open to new ideas.

Cross the academic/industry threshold with the Royal Society Entrepreneurs in Residence scheme

Apply now to the 2024 round of the Royal Society Entrepreneurs in Residence scheme. The grant provides opportunities for enthusiastic, highly experienced industrial scientists and entrepreneurs to spend one day a week at a university developing a bespoke project that will:

  1. Expose university staff and students to state-of-the-art industrial research and development, and the scientific challenges faced by industry
  2. Provide support and expert advice aimed at promoting innovation and the translation of research by Universities
  3. Grow confidence in and understanding of business and entrepreneurship among staff and students
  4. Provide career recognition to the award holders and support their professional development.

As an Entrepreneur in Residence, successful applicants will also join a network of like-minded individuals across the UK (including me, who learnt a lot from this scheme in the last couple of years). Application deadline is 18 September 2024.

...and finally, monkey business

It’s nearing the end of exam season so I’m setting a challenge to BIA members (well, probably, the IP lawyers amongst you) to answer this conundrum thrown up by a high-profile piece of research in the news last week. Did you see this study, which was announced by Oxford University and reported in the global media that observed chimpanzees as they sought out and discovered plants with medicinal properties?

So the exam question is: if chimps can now help scientists find plants that have the potential to become medicines and observing primates paves the way for new drug discoveries, how does the Nagoya protocol apply? Do the chimpanzees play an active or passive role in the research here?

(They may have led the researchers to study a given plant, but a journal article could theoretically have led researchers to study the same. The knowledge itself pre-physical access of the genetic resource does not trigger ABS obligations.)

But under the new WIPO patent disclosure requirement and treatment of associated traditional knowledge – do the chimpanzees hold associated traditional knowledge? Or is it the humans who first observed them? Or the Western researchers who documented that in a research journal? Would a biotech company seeking patent from any such discovery have to disclose the chimpanzees as the traditional knowledge community in their patent application that resulted from ‘using’ this knowledge? And would the case be the same if the Chimps were observed in a zoo or safari park in the UK?

Bottle of champagne and blog post on the BIA website to whoever comes up with the best answer to that!

Don't miss our upcoming events this summer - we hope to see you there!

 

Steve Bates Headshot.png

 

 

Steve Bates OBE
CEO, BioIndustry Association

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