CEO Update | Monday 10 December 2018

Expect ongoing Westminster drama on Brexit this week. We’ll monitor and respond appropriately on behalf of our members and then provide a Christmas wrapped analysis of what it all means for our sector on Wednesday 19th December at our final webinar of the year.


The key development in the past week for our sector was a letter from Health Secretary Matt Hancock to industry on medicines supply contingency planning in the event of No Deal. He made clear that the previously recommended six-week supply stockpiling activities will no longer be sufficient given updated planning assumptions about cross-border flows in the event of no deal. The new guidance states that there will be significantly reduced access across the Dover/Calais short straits. These difficulties could last up to six months. The letter indicates that medicines and medical devices will be prioritised on as-yet unspecified alternative routes. Industry are still working closely with government to ensure the initial recommendation of a six-week stockpile can be met, and to ensure contingencies are in place for medicines which cannot be stockpiled. I continue to reiterate that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would mean the biggest dis-integration of the complex regulated medicines market across Europe in terms of regulation, cross border movement of goods, comparative pricing and intellectual property. Ensuring that all participants are as prepared as possible for a scenario which no one wants is imperative for patients.


We’ve also been waiting for detail about EU citizens in the UK if there is no deal and it has finally arrived. Technical notices in the summer didn’t cover people and we had been raising the issue with Government. Essentially the “Settled Status” that Government had said would happen if there was a deal will also apply if there is no deal – EU citizens in the by 29 March 2019 will have until 31 December 2020 to apply for status under the scheme.  The scheme is due to go on line in the new year. The Department for Exiting the European Union has announced what would happen to citizens’ rights in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, both for EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.


It's a shame that the Brexit noise has hidden excellent news for the sector as the Government has published its second Life Sciences Sector Deal last Wednesday. Last year’s Sector Deal was the first deal of its kind agreed between government and an industry sector. This year has seen biotech in the UK grow from strength to strength, and this second deal highlights the government’s commitment to the life sciences sector. Several BIA member companies were mentioned in the report, including Adaptimmune, Autolus, Celgene, the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, Cobra Biologics, Eli Lilly, Freeline Therapeutics, Fujifilm Diosynth, GE Healthcare, GW Pharmaceuticals, IQVIA, Kalvista, MSD, Orchard Therapeutics, Oxford Biomedica, Puridify, Purolite, QIAGEN, Roslin CT and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Ensuring continued investment into the life sciences sector is critical to ensure that the UK becomes the third global life sciences cluster at least, and the Patient Capital Review is a key part of fulfilling that goal. As a member of both the Life Sciences Council and Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Board I will continue to ensure that industrial strategy continues to both support and benefit from the innovation coming out of UK life sciences. Our briefing for members was sent last week – if you would like a copy please contact BIA Communications Executive Joanne Duffy.


One major government announcement for our sector last Wednesday wasn’t enough, as the long-awaited Bioeconomy Strategy - “Growing the Bioeconomy” was also published. The strategy is a collective approach from government, industry and the research community to transform the UK economy through the power of bioscience and biotechnology. The vision set out in the strategy is to make the UK a global leader in the development, manufacture, use and export of bio-based solutions. This is fantastic to see and something the BIA has been championing, primarily through its Engineering Biology Advisory Committee and we are discussing next steps with the group.


The UK continues to break boundaries in life sciences. As announced by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, Genomics England’s pioneering 100,000 Genome Project achieved its target of sequencing 100,000 whole genomes. The project has forged the way for many similar international efforts and has helped to place the UK as a world-leader in genomic science.  It has also delivered life-changing results for patients with rare diseases and cancer. Congratulations to Genomics England on this incredible achievement! If you would like to learn more about genomics, be sure to check out our Explainer and accompanying video on the great work being undertaken by UK biotech companies in this space.


In addition, the government and the ABPI agreed the next 5 year PPRS last week. Companies that have an active marketing authorisation have been made aware of the detail and need to make a choice before the end of the year if they want to sign up to the voluntary scheme or be placed into the statutory scheme.


Given the rapid progress the UK is making in terms of genomic science it is very timely that the Royal College of Surgeons published the report of an independent commission on the future of surgery last week. The report predicts that surgery is about to be transformed for millions of patients by a new wave of technologies including genomics and artificial intelligence as well as big data, robot-assisted surgery, imaging and specialised interventions such as transplants and stem-cell therapies. The BIA submitted evidence to the Commission, which can be found here.


Don’t forget to book your Gala Dinner before they sell out. The event, which was referred to last week by MediWales as “legendary”, will be the perfect way to ease away the winter blues. We are delighted to be joined this year by a number of VIPs, including Sir Mark Walport. We will also showcase our new Charity of the Year for 2019, Action Medical Research for children, and we will here from Simon Harriss who will tell us about his daughter Lily. You can learn more about their story here.


If you are in London for the Gala Dinner, or are an investor looking to learn more about the biotech sector, join us for our Strategic Technologies event earlier in the afternoon on 24th January. The 21st century is proving to be one of the most exciting and prolific periods of innovation in biosciences and healthcare, and the BIA has identified four key areas of strategic importance in this new and exciting age of science. Join us for an afternoon of learning and networking where we will be showcasing these strategic technologies and explain why you should be investing in them!


In February, I will be taking a alongside a UK delegation of BIA members to BIO’s CEO and Investor Conference in New York.  We are offering BIA members discounted registration to the conference, providing them with the opportunity to meet potential investors and collaborators.  If you’d like to find out more please contact Michael McGivern.