CEO Update - 4 December 2023

UK Genomics success

UK Biobank is a British success story that puts us at the heart of a key global technology of this century. Last week, UK Biobank published the world’s largest collection of full human genomes. Set up 20 years ago, the charity UK Biobank recruited half a million altruistic volunteers to create the world’s most comprehensive source of health data. It can now be used by researchers across the world, from academic, commercial, government and charitable settings, for scientific discoveries that improve human health.

Professor Sir Rory Collins FRS FMedSci, Principal Investigator of UK Biobank captured the importance of the project well when he said: “Scientists are looking at UK Biobank  like Google Maps when they want to know what are the pathways from lifestyle, environment, genetics to disease, they don’t go to Google, they go to UK Biobank.” Our genomic heritage allied with our capacity to turn that into useful and productive research product is a core part of the UK’s sustainable competitive advantage in life sciences. Congratulations to all who have contributed to its success.

Engaging with the Labour Opposition 

Keir Starmer reshuffled his shadow ministers last week, with Chris Evans joining Peter Kyle’s shadow DSIT team as Shadow Minister for Tech and Digital Economy. Steve McCabe, a champion for our sector who has engaged extensively with the BIA, also joined the shadow frontbench. We continue to engage with the Labour Party in the run-up to the next general election.

Dr Martin Turner, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at BIA, spoke on behalf of members at the HSBC Innovation Banking breakfast meeting with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Shadow Science Secretary Peter Kyle last week. Martin highlighted the importance of R&D tax reliefs to life science SMEs and explained how a future Labour government could unlock institutional investment from pension funds. Rachel and Peter were very receptive to Martin and other BIA members present in the meeting. It’s been great to see Labour engaging with these key issues for UK life sciences. 

Finance Bill published with R&D tax credit changes

The Finance Bill, which provides the legal basis needed for announcements in the Autumn Statement, has been published with the R&D tax relief changes. In case you've missed it, see our webinar explaining the changes. The BIA Finance and Tax Committee (FTAC) chair Colin Hailey gave evidence to the House of Lords committee, making the case for year-on-year flexibility – or a period of grace as it is described – that is a win for the sector and is now in the Government’s proposals to parliament.

Understanding the VPAG deal 

The ABPI are holding another webinar to explain the Voluntary scheme for branded medicines Pricing, Access and Growth (VPAG) on Wednesday this week, and another on Friday, 15 December. On 15 December, the Department of Health will attend and answer questions on both the new VPAG and statutory scheme; to register, click here. Both these webinars are all industry.

Flagship Pioneering into the UK

It was a pleasure to join BIA member Flagship Pioneering as they launched their London base, signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK government last Tuesday. It sets out five ways the two can work closely together to maximise the UK’s potential to turn bright new ideas into thriving life science businesses. This includes working together on UK-based clinical trials and clinical delivery; looking into potential locations in the UK to host manufacturing sites for Flagship’s life sciences companies; engaging with UK’s world-leading genomics organisations, such as Genomics England, NIHR BioResource and UK Biobank; and Flagship feeding into the UK’s horizon scanning processes that aim to identify opportunities for innovation, earlier.  

Flagship demonstrated its commitment to the UK earlier this month with the $50 million launch of Quotient Therapeutics, their first-ever company co-anchored in both the US and UK. The firm is pioneering somatic genomics, the study of genetic variation at the cellular level, to discover therapeutics informed by new links between genes and disease. 

Race against resistance – BBC AMR production

Thank you to the BBC for hosting a timely AMR event focused on their work to raise awareness of this silent pandemic. The full version is now available on YouTube – although sadly we will not see the programme on UK channels since it is produced by BBC StoryWorks, the division of the BBC that produces content aimed at global rather than domestic audiences. 

Great bioProcessUK in Brighton last week

Thank you to all who attended bioPorcessUK last week in Brighton. It was great to share and celebrate with the biomanufacturing community. I was struck by the atmosphere of infectious enthusiasm and I was particularly taken by the strength of the next generation coming into the sector highlighted by the student poster exhibitions and the Dragon's Den competition. If you weren’t able to make it you can capture some of the essence of a great three days through our latest blog.

Growing the pool of Diverse NEDs for life sciences

How do we grow a broader pool of talented non-executive directors (NED) in the UK, and what can we learn from those who have established themselves successfully? In association with the Diverse Directors' Programme (a collaboration between Start Codon and RBW Consulting), we'll discuss the challenges, explore solutions and, as always, hear from some incredible women leading the way in our sector at our final Women in Biotech of the year this Thursday – which is yet again sold out and as such has the hallmarks of being a great evening.

Only two more of these until Christmas!

All the best



Steve Bates Headshot.png



Steve Bates OBE
CEO, BioIndustry Association

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