CEO Update | Monday 01 March

Life sciences central to PM’s economic thinking ahead of Budget  

If you want to understand how central life sciences entrepreneurialism is to this Government’s economic strategy, then this pre-Budget Facebook video by Boris Johnson makes for interesting viewing. In it, the Prime Minister says: “We depend on the private sector for these lifesaving drugs. On the instincts and know-how of wealth creators, people who are willing to invest money, to take risks on new ideas…” He goes on to describe “the formula for our country’s prosperity for years to come, a strong and active government investing massively in science and technology, coupled with a dynamic enterprise economy – that’s how we will create jobs not just in biosciences but also in technology of all kinds.”

We look forward to seeing, in the Budget this Wednesday, the policy detail that will support this political ambition to make the UK a world-leading science superpower. We will be providing rapid reaction on how the Budget will impact our sector, please follow the BIA Twitter account for updates.


COVID-19 news

Over the past week we have seen positive news about a number of COVID-19 vaccines. Johnson & Johnson’s single shot vaccine appears safe and effective in trials, Pfizer’s vaccine is shown to be 94% effective in a peer-reviewed, real-world mass study and Moderna has produced a vaccine targeted at the South African variant. This, coupled with the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown brings hope to us all. A great article in The Economist which sums up the fantastic work of the UK’s life sciences ecosystem in tackling the pandemic can be found here (registration or subscription required).

The article highlights the importance of streamlined regulation and I pay tribute to the MHRA which has led the way on the regulation of new COVID-19 vaccines. I’m delighted that Dr June Raine was last week confirmed as Chief Executive of the MHRA, having held the role on an interim basis since 2019. During the pandemic, June has played a crucial part in setting up rolling reviews, ensuring the UK was the first in the world to authorise the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.


Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Today is the first day of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and our charity partner of the year, Ovarian Cancer Action is using this month to highlight the inequalities thousands of women with ovarian cancer are facing. Find out more here.

We will be supporting Ovarian Cancer Awareness month at our upcoming Women in Biotech event taking place on the 10 March. Cary Wakefield, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Action, will join us to say a few words at the start of the event. Additionally, we will be donating £10 per ticket sold for the event to Ovarian Cancer Action. 

This will be our first ever transatlantic Women in Biotech event, which we are running in partnership with the US-based organisation Women In Bio. Our panel will be discussing investment in diversity asking: “how do we encourage investors to back female led/founded companies and diverse leadership teams from company inception?” Please register here.


First Innovation Passport awarded

Fantastic to see that a promising treatment for a cancer-causing rare disease has been awarded the UK’s  first ‘Innovation Passport’ by the MHRA, NICE and the SMC. Belzutifan is a treatment developed by MSD for adults with von Hippel Lindau disease. The Innovation Passport means patients could benefit much sooner from this treatment and it will be accelerated through the approval process; the Innovative Licensing and Access Pathway (ILAP).


NHS commercial framework

Last week saw the publication of the long-anticipated Commercial Framework for New Medicines by NHS England, which was first consulted on in 2019. The BIA worked with NHS England alongside other trade associations to feed into the development of the Framework. The Framework sets out the process which NHS England will follow when holding pricing discussions with companies and when deciding why deals to be made or not. 

We hope that the Commercial Framework will help to provide clarity and certainty for companies seeking to engage with NHS England and support more timely discussions on medicines pricing.

This is also a busy time with regard to medicines access, with the NICE Methods Review ongoing and expected announcements on the promised Innovative Medicines Fund forthcoming. We will continue to work with NHS England and NICE to ensure that the Framework and the other initiatives being developed work together to secure patient access to medicines.


DIT partnership with Japan

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is launching a trade mission to Japan. You can learn more about the mission and how to get involved here. We thought this was a good opportunity to remind members of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the BIA and the Japanese Forum for Innovative Regenerative Medicine (FIRM), exchanging directories of member companies working in Cell and Gene therapies, in Japan and the UK.


Horizon Europe

The European Commission has published a Q&A on the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe. KTN is hosting an introduction to Horizon Europe webinar on 11 March, and Innovate UK has a Horizon Europe newsletter which is worth signing up to for more information.


Sector news

Pharmaron announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Allergan Biologics for $118.7 million in cash from AbbVie. It’s great to hear that Pharmaron is committed to further expanding capabilities and capacities at the Liverpool site in response to growing unmet demand.

It was fantastic to see BIA member Genomics PLC successfully complete a $30m funding round. Genomics PLC is an Oxford University spin-out that has developed DNA technology to map people’s susceptibility to future illnesses.


BIA events

This week our Brexit Briefing webinar returns with a focus on the impacts of new customs and regulatory requirements. We will also touch on the outcome of the recent meeting between Michael Gove and Maroš Šefčovič on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Register here.

We had a fantastic discussion last week during our webinar on the UK’s new National Security and Investment (NSI) regime, if you missed the event you can find the recording on our YouTube channel 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.