CEO Update: Monday 11 June

Last week, the BIA was out in Boston for BIO 2018. UK companies became Official World record holders, showcasing UK excellence, and partnering and engaging with the international biotech community.

I was delighted to see so many BIA members at our event with AstraZeneca and DIT on the Tuesday night, where we also welcomed Trade Minister Baroness Fairhead. Earlier that day, it was great to join forces with MedCity for a genomics breakfast and showcase the international excellence we have in that field in the UK

BIO also presented an opportunity for the BIA to continue its advocacy on a global level. We met with fellow biotech organisation heads through a meeting of the International Council of Biotech Associations to coincide with BIO to discuss various global trends that impact us all. One of those was the issue of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), which is on the agenda of the G7 this week in Canada. At BIO, I was delighted to join a panel with other members of the AMR Industry Alliance, where I continued to make the case for how biotech companies are key to solving this complex issue and the need for effective pull mechanisms to give them market incentive to do so.

On Thursday, I went straight from the plane to Stevenage to join the MMIP conference, where it was great to see our vibrant medicines manufacturing community are making the most of new Industrial Strategy opportunities, especially in advanced therapies and hear plans for next steps – we will keep you updated on this over the coming weeks.

While I was in Boston, the team organised a Parliamentary breakfast to launch the new UK Industrial Biotechnology Strategy. The Strategy, which has been developed by the Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum (IBLF) and is promoted in partnership with the BIA, aims to ensure that the UK becomes a leader in the global shift towards clean growth by fostering the development of industrial biotech SMEs. The breakfast, kindly hosted by Daniel Zeichner MP, brought together policymakers and stakeholders from industry and academia to highlight the importance of industrial biotech and synthetic biology in meeting the Industrial Strategy’s Clean Growth Challenge. Many thanks to Daniel for hosting and to David Drew MP, Barry Gardiner MP, Rachael Maskell MP, and Sandy Martin MP for attending and showing your support. Read more on our blog here.

This week we had two pieces of good news on Brexit. First, UK companies will not be blocked from participating in future EU R+D and innovation schemes if the UK decides to participate, which it says it will. The talk that UK companies would not have access to future 94 billion Euro Horizon Europe schemes, which were outlined in Brussels last week, even if the UK pays to play in the deal, seems to no longer be the case.  Britain will receive “fair treatment” if it takes part in the EU’s Horizon Europe science and research program after Brexit, European Commissioner Carlos Moedas said, as he revealed the new EU wide policy on Thursday. “I would like countries to participate in the whole program.” So if the UK signs up to the new deal, which is UK government policy, UK biotech companies should have the opportunity to apply for forthcoming EU fast, flexible grants and co-investments designed to “bridge the ‘valley of death’ between research, commercialisation and the scaling-up of companies. The EU has pledged to make the process of application easier and less bureaucratic, something we’ve argued for via Europabio. Not impactful for companies today but potentially significant in the years to come.   

Second, the UK government has accepted the key Lords amendment enabling the UK to continue to participate in agencies of the European Union (like the EMA). The conciliatory move comes before the key votes on the EU withdrawal bill in the House of Commons this week. It follows a detailed parliamentary briefing to key MPs from the BIA about the benefits to patients of continuing close alignment in medicines regulation. In the formal legal language, David Davis has tabled a motion that would accept Lords Amendment 32 on EU law and agencies which says: “when it comes to Future interaction with the law and agencies of the EU nothing in this Act shall prevent the United Kingdom from  (a) replicating in domestic law any EU law made on or after exit day, or (b) continuing to participate in, or have a formal relationship with, the agencies of the European Union after exit day.”  Which we expect to be accepted by parliament.

However, on the Irish border progress is yet to be seen. The government published it’s long-awaited “customs backstop proposals” on Thursday. It states that if an agreement is not reached by the end of the transition period in December 2020, the UK will remain in a “temporary customs arrangement” with the EU until December 2021, or until an adequate agreement is reached. Davis and Barnier are meeting in Brussels today for further discussions, but in the absence of clarity on the post-Brexit customs arrangements, BIA continues to call for the frictionless supply of medicines to patients.  We will keep a close eye on further developments this week. 

There was an important update clinical research this week. The government has removed the 70-day benchmark for performance in initiating clinical research. This is in response to feedback from industry that publication of performance data using the agreed Minimum Data Set rather than the 70-day benchmark will now better meet the needs of industry partners. It is also in line with the ambition set out in the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy to make the UK a top global hub for clinical research.

Finally, I would like to congratulate both Darrin Disley and Ian McCubbin for both receiving OBEs in the Queen’s birthday honours list – it’s fantastic to see the industry being recognised at the highest levels.



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