CEO Update | 31 August 2021

I’m really looking forward to welcoming many of you this Friday to our sector’s premier social event of 2021, the BIA Summer Party at Middle Temple Gardens in London. It’s set to be a great evening of networking and sector celebration with over 400 people coming, if you don’t have a ticket and want to join us, please follow this link.  

This week it’s been great to see our community seizing the opportunity presented by innovative technology breakthroughs pioneered in the COVID-19 era to lead the world in the manufacture of vaccines and therapies.

UK RNA centre of excellence

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has launched an RNA Centre of Excellence and training academy to support the development, scale-up and manufacture of new and novel RNA therapies and vaccines putting the UK at the centre of the global race to drive the productivity and efficiency of RNA manufacturing.

To proactively prepare the UK talent needed for the global demand for this exciting emerging technology, CPI is expanding capacity at its site in Darlington to include GMP facilities for the clinical manufacture of RNA, and is collaborating with the National Horizons Centre, part of Teesside University, to form a new National Training Academy for RNA Therapeutics and Vaccines Manufacture. 

The use of RNA in oncology, and as a potential vaccine platform, has shown promise for many years, both via short chain oligonucleotides and longer chain mRNA and self-amplifying RNA. Thanks to the funding, development, clinical trials, and approval of highly effective mRNA vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic, RNA has been demonstrated as a viable therapeutic platform.  

This is a once in a generation opportunity for the UK to become world leaders in a key medicine technology which offers the potential of significant expansion in the years to come. More details can be found here.

Touchlight and Vanderbilt University Medical Centre collaboration

In a similar but unrelated move it’s great to see that Touchlight’s doggybone DNA will be used in the Pandemic Prevention Platform programme funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Touchlight and Vanderbilt University’s collaboration will explore the use of synthetic dbDNA to deliver antibody-based prophylaxis against pandemic disease threats. More details here

ScaleUp Survey – life science input needed

The Scale Up Institute has launched its 2021 survey, seeking to understand the barriers to companies’ future growth, the ongoing impact Covid has had on businesses and business planning, and the most critical forms of support needed from private and public sectors that will help businesses to scale. It’s key that the particular experiences and challenges of life science companies scaling is reflected in the report and I encourage companies to participate in the survey here .

Mission and AbbVie Collaboration in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases Reaches Next Milestone

Great to see BIA members Mission Therapeutics and AbbVie have announced progression of selected deubiquitylating enzyme (DUB) targets into the next phase of research in their neurodegenerative disease collaboration. Further details can be found here.

UK Bioscience Forum returns!

In closing I’m delighted that our headline sector event the UK Bioscience Forum will return in person this October in London!  You will hear from some of the industry's most inspiring figures and gain useful insights to help take your organisation forwards in a new era of biotechnology. More details in the coming weeks and you can book early bird here.

Steve Bates

Chief Executive Officer


Steve Bates has been the CEO of the UK Bioindustry Association since 2012. He currently chairs the International Council of Biotech Associations and has been a Board member of Europabio since 2015. Steve is the visible face of the vibrant UK life sciences industry to government and media. He sits on the UK’s Life Sciences Council and Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Board. Steve has championed with government effective industrial incentives like the Biomedical Cataylst which have crowded-in private sector investment into UK SMES. He has forged links for the sector across the USA, Europe and in China. In his time at the BIA Steve has developed new member groups focused on cell and gene therapy, genomics and engineered biology. A strong advocate of partnership working, Steve champions sector collaboration with research charities and academia. Proud to lead an organisation with a diverse Board with over 40% female representation, Steve is committed to next generation talent and developing the skills needed for the sector to flourish. Before the BIA, Steve worked for Genzyme and as an advisor to the UK Government of Tony Blair. He was made OBE for services to innovation in 2017.