CEO Update - 25 March 2024


I’m delighted to be opening PULSE this morning. It is a free three-day leadership and entrepreneurship training programme for up-and-coming life sciences entrepreneurs that we’ve developed and delivered with the Francis Crick Institute. PULSE is aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs and first-time CEOs looking for advanced practical advice, support and feedback from established CEOs, leading entrepreneurs and renowned professionals. Now in its seventh year, it is fantastic to see what some of the alumni have gone on to do - take a look at the success stories and watch the interviews on our YouTube channel.

EU biotech initiatives

The long-awaited release of the EU's Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative took place last week. The Initiative includes significant reference to the principles and industry-specific asks that EuropaBio called for (the BIA is the UK National Association member of EuropaBio). It was good to see the publication directly references EuropaBio’s WifOR study on the economic footprint of biotechnology and uses content from publications from the Biomanufacturing Platform.

Our primary aim now, with colleagues across Europe, is to ensure legislative commitments from the incoming Commission and build a mandate that strongly champions biotechnology. EuropaBio has published a response press release and a LinkedIn post

Biosecurity Leadership Council

It was good to see BIA members playing a leading role in last week’s UK Biosecurity Leadership Council, which I also attended. Responsible and trustworthy innovation aims to ensure that unintended negative impacts of engineering biology are avoided, that barriers to dissemination, adoption and diffusion of research and innovation are reduced and that the positive societal and economic benefits of research and innovation are fully realised. To achieve this, we are working to reduce biosecurity risks, create a safe, secure ecosystem and harness a culture of responsibility.

Boost for UK cell and gene therapy

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), alongside Innovate UK, the Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre Network (ATTC Network) and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult), unveiled a £17.9 million strategic initiative to enhance the UK environment for advanced therapy medicinal product (ATMP) clinical trials. Over the next four years, this funding for NHS organisations will be directed towards a range of initiatives designed to accelerate progress in the field including Clinical Trials Acceleration; developing specialised training programs to equip researchers and healthcare professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the complexities of ATMP trials; enhancing data infrastructure and analytics capabilities to optimise decision-making and drive evidence-based advancements in ATMP research.

Matthew Durdy, Chief Executive of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult commented: “Advanced therapies have the potential to transform healthcare, providing a range of new, life-changing treatments to patients. Thanks to far-sighted investments, like this commitment by NIHR and the ongoing support of Innovate UK, the UK is recognised globally as a pioneer in advanced therapies. With the continued great work of the ATTC network, we hope to further build the reputation of the UK.”

UK dementia mission new scientific advisory board  

It was a privilege to be at No 10 Downing Street last week to attend a reception to celebrate the progress of the dementia mission.

Ruth McKernan (former chair of the BIA) was announced as chair of the scientific advisory board of the UK’s new Neurodegeneration Initiative.

It was great to see the linked-up nature of the UK's research and patient community, leading charities and academics as well as businesses with real prospects of disease-modifying drugs and novel diagnostics in the very near future!

AstraZeneca acquire Fusion

AstraZeneca, the largest UK pharmaceutical company, continued its acquisition journey last week with the purchase of Canadian company Fusion to accelerate the development of next-generation radio conjugates to treat cancer. As ever such acquisitions continue to validate the venture-backed biotech business model as the company was acquired at a significant premium to its market capital and strengthened AstraZeneca as a global player. 

Out and about across the UK - Manchester and Aberdeen

It was heartening to see the vibrancy of the UK life science scene at the ELRIG's conference in Manchester and at The Times and Sunday Times 2024 Life Sciences Summit in Aberdeen last week. It was great for us all to understand the ambitions creativity and innovation that reside in our ecosystem and it is amazing that at least some of the policy work and networking we are engaged in is reaching all parts of the UK.

Shaping the future of UK large-scale compute

The UK is gearing up for an exascale-era computing revolution. UKRI is working closely with DSIT to deliver the recommendations of the Future of Compute review and is continuing to develop our Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) programme. As part of these activities, UKRI is looking to further improve large-scale compute capacities to supercharge research and innovation across the country and your help is needed.

Share your needs and priorities via this short survey before 29 March, which will guide the design and capabilities of this world-class large-scale compute resource, ensuring it meets the diverse demands of UK research and industry.

No Newscast next week as I'm taking an Easter break. Look forward to catching up in April!

If you are taking the long weekend I hope you have a good holiday too.

Steve Bates Headshot.png



Steve Bates OBE
CEO, BioIndustry Association

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