CEO Update - 8 January 2024

Pre-JPM news comes from London

It was great to see the key pre-JPM news this week announced from London, as the biotech world descended on San Franciso for the annual conference.  

A digital biology company headquartered in London, Isomorphic Labs has announced two large pharma deals with Eli Lilly and Novartis worth nearly $3 billion in combined deal value, just more than two years after launching within Alphabet.

Their British founder is Demis Hassabis, who concurrently leads DeepMind, and Isomorphic Labs' Chief Scientific Officer is Miles Congreve, PhD, former director of chemistry at Astex Pharmaceuticals and an ex-GSK medicinal chemistry leader.

The two separate deals focus on exploiting Google DeepMind’s AlphaFold AI tech, the foundation of Isomorphic’s platform. It predicts protein structure, enabling potentially faster target discovery and compound construction and newer iterations of AlphaFold are expanding beyond protein predictions to include small molecules and nucleic acids. 

Lilly is handing over $45 million upfront to discover small molecule therapies aimed at undisclosed disease targets with more than $1.7 billion in milestone payments. The deal with Novartis is similar, including $37.5 million in upfront cash.

I look forward to seeing further announcements through the week as signs of US economic growth and a wave of M&A deals at the end of last year have boosted sentiment in our sector.

Congratulations to Dan Mahony on new role at Novo Holdings

BIA Chair Dan Mahony has joined the Growth Investments team at Novo Holdings. Based in London, Dan will lead its Growth initiatives in Europe. Dan will continue to serve as Chair of our Association as well as Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the UK Government’s Life Sciences Envoy.

He can now put his long experience as both an investor and analyst to good use. Novo Holdings is a holding and investment company that is responsible for managing the assets and wealth of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, one of the world’s largest philanthropic enterprise foundations. In addition to managing a broad portfolio of equities, bonds, real estate, infrastructure and private equity assets, Novo Holdings is a world-leading life sciences investor. Through its Seeds, Venture, Growth and Principal Investments teams, Novo Holdings invests in life science companies at all stages of development.  

BIA grows membership, makes new Board and staff announcements

In more internal news, I’m excited to share that this week the BIA has reached 600 companies in membership for the first time ever and has made new Board and staff appointments for 2024. The 600th member company to join BIA is Exscientia, a precision medicine company using artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionise the discovery and development of new drug candidates. Exscientia is a UK life science scale-up success story, founded by Professor Andrew Hopkins CBE FRS FMedSci (who has been awarded a CBE in the 2024 New Year Honours list) with fellow innovators in 2012 as a spinout from Dundee University. Early Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funding proved crucial to demonstrating the potential and practicality of using AI-led approaches and underpinned Exscientia’s formation and early development. In October 2021, Exscientia was floated on the Nasdaq stock market, raising $510 million, the largest initial public offering for a European biotech ever. From small beginnings, with just five staff, Exscientia now employs over 400 people. Headquartered in England at the Oxford Science Park, Exscientia has a diverse global team with offices and labs in Scotland, Austria and the US.

As a member-owned not-for-profit, BIA member companies choose Board members through an annual election. The new representatives joining the BIA Board this month for a three-year term are Ros Deegan, CEO of OMass Therapeutics, Shaun Grady, SVP Business Development Operations at AstraZeneca and Laura Lane, Vice President, Lilly Ventures (Head of Europe) of Eli Lilly and Company adding to the considerable industry expertise that the BIA Board can draw on.

Following an internal restructuring in the BIA’s professional team, with me taking on a more external focus, I’m delighted to announce that Jane Wall has been promoted to Managing Director with a remit to drive the strategic growth of the Association. Nick Gardiner as Chief Operating Officer completes the senior leadership team.  

Details of further changes as part of the restructure of the Association including a new layer of leadership, reporting to Jane, are available in our press release.

It’s fantastic to see the growth of our Association to over 600 members through 2023. I’m delighted that we have been able to develop and promote our talented team at the BIA delivering for members on influence, connection and business solutions. We are well set to respond with agility to whatever 2024 throws at our sector – whilst at the same time developing the core strategic priorities of our membership.

MHRA update

The new international recognition procedure (IRP) is live as of January 2024 – developers of new medicines can now submit applications in accordance with the MHRA Guidance. The IRP, which is expected to speed up the licensing process and bring life-saving medicines to UK patients, has been developed by the MHRA with input from industry including the BIA after the UK left the EU. It allows the agency to take into account the expertise of trusted regulatory partners in other countries, including Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore and the United States, when authorising medicines. Members may find useful the recording of the MHRA webinar to plan their applications via this new route.

The MHRA is holding a webinar on the Innovation Accelerator services on 7 February 2024, providing the latest information about how to access the service and what support is available at an early stage in product development, helping developers of innovative products to understand and navigate the journey from development to marketing authorisation and beyond. The Innovation Accelerator functions bring together the Innovation Office, the Regulatory Advice Service for Regenerative Medicines, Regulatory Science and horizon scanning. Members can register to take part.

Steve Bates Headshot.png



Steve Bates OBE
CEO, BioIndustry Association

More news and updates 

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