CEO Update | Monday 07 December

This week the first approved vaccine for COVID-19 will be rolled out as the UK is the first country to authorise the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine.

This is a testament to our fantastic Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which has carried out a rigorous scientific assessment of all available data through a ‘rolling review’. This can be used to complete the assessment of a promising medicine or vaccine during a public health emergency in the shortest time possible.

Dr June Raine, Chief Executive of the MHRA has written in The Times about the rigorous assessment the agency has carried out, you can read it here (£). June also appeared on the Andrew Marr Show, responding to questions on the impact Brexit will have on vaccine rollout. Dr Raine said the goal of the MHRA was to "make sure that whatever the outcome, whatever the deal, that medicines and medical devices and vaccines reach anyone in all parts of the country in the same way without any interruption at all".

It was great to see so many of you at the 17th Annual bioProcessUK conference last week. The conference shone a light on the work our bioprocessing community has done in response to COVID-19, particularly in vaccine manufacturing. We had excellent speakers who have been involved first-hand with vaccines and therapeutics development, including Kate Bingham, Chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, Mark Procter from AstraZeneca and Sandy Douglas from Oxford University. All attendees will have the opportunity to watch the sessions on demand through Swapcard.

Amanda Solloway MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, opened our digital skills workshop with an exciting announcement, the launch of the Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network (ATSTN). The network, which is driven by industry and coordinated by the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, delivers a platform consisting of dedicated online resources and national centres to upskill existing workers, and for potential workers to identify how they can enter the industry. This will provide key skills to those entering the advanced therapies and vaccine manufacturing space, and I’m delighted that the Government has funded this crucial initiative. Find out more here.

The event was also an opportunity to celebrate outstanding achievements: congratulations to Steve Bagshaw, Chairman of FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies and the BIA COVID-19 Vaccines Manufacturing Taskforce, who were awarded the prestigious Peter Dunnill award and Richard Wilson impact award respectively. These worthy recipients have been recognised for their work and contributions to the bioprocessing and biologics manufacturing sector. You can find out more here.

Tomorrow we’re hosting an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Life Sciences briefing on vaccines and testing, together with our partners at ABPI and BIVDA. We’ll be hearing from Ben Osborn and Berkeley Phillips from Pfizer, Sandy Douglas from the Jenner Institute, and Chris Molloy from the Medicines Discovery Catapult/Lighthouse Labs Network. We’re expecting a record number of MPs and our main aim for the briefing will be to explain the importance of public confidence in vaccines and how vaccine development has been speeded up without compromising safety.

Call for novel lateral flow tests

A consortium of UK lateral flow providers, contract research and manufacturing partners is collaborating to deliver a high capacity pipeline of novel lateral flow tests for SARS-2 COVID-19 infectiousness (antigen tests) which may be used during the current pandemic.

The consortium, working with government, is calling on academia and industry for novel reagents which are available now and could form the basis for next generation industrial tests.

The consortium seeks novel, high-affinity monoclonal epitope recognition (primary) antibodies or affimers to either spike or capsid epitopes and also paired capture antibodies for the primary, or other affinity molecule pair, e.g. nucleic acid, carbohydrate. More information can be found here. Interested parties should contact Jason Ryall (

Brexit Webinar

This week is another crunch week in Brexit negotiations. There has been little progress on negotiations since our last webinar and time is running out to know exactly what the UK’s trading relationship with the EU will be from 1 January 2021. There has been little new guidance published, but there is the potential for new announcements this week. We will be holding a webinar this Thursday, which will be a shorter update, focusing on the outstanding issues and exploring how likely we are to agree a deal before the end of transition. Register here.

BIA submission to the IPO consultation on AI and IP

The BIA has responded to the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO)'s call for views on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Intellectual Property (IP). In our response we outline the growing importance of AI in life sciences and the need to offer the same protection to inventions generated through the use of AI, as is offered to human-generated inventions. You can find our submission here.

London Stock Exchange webinar

Next week we will be working alongside the London Stock Exchange to deliver a webinar 'How to be part of the biotech boom in 2021'. A panel of industry experts including Jeremy Curnock-Cook, Dr Barbara Domayne-Hayman, Dr Ruth McKernan CBE, and Dr Andy Richards CBE will discuss current and emerging investment themes and opportunities presented by the UK sector. Many of the themes will touch on our recently published guide Opportunity on your doorstep: A guide to investing in the UK biotech sector. Register 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.