CEO Update: Monday 12 March

Today, the Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced that the government is investing over £300 million from its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) to bring together the UK’s world-class research expertise with business investment to develop technologies and industries that can help the UK prepare for the challenge of an ageing society. £210 million will be invested in the ‘data to early diagnosis and precision medicine’ challenge which will see the UK lead the world in the development of innovative new diagnostic tools, medical products and treatments.

As part of the funding announced today, the government will be investing in genomics, ensuring the UK continues to lead the world in this area. Through the new investment, the UK will sequence the genomes of 500,000 Biobank volunteers. The data from each of these volunteers will provide a rich resource that UK researchers will use to build a greater understanding of disease processes and enable the development of tools for early diagnosis and a new wave of therapies.

Over £70 million is going to be invested in creating regional centres across the UK to offer UK patients better diagnosis using new technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI). Each centre will enable companies, including SMEs, to rapidly develop, test and implement products and systems in partnership with doctors and academics, improving patient care and gaining early evidence of real-world product value.

Expressions of interest are also now open for the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Wave 3, giving stakeholders the opportunity to suggest what further tranches of funding should be spent on.

This week, the BIA team is in Amsterdam for BioEurope Spring where I will be speaking on panels on Brexit and on antimicrobial resistance. This is a great opportunity for us to check in with colleagues in Europe to see what issues Brexit is generating for them and to demonstrate the strength of the UK sector to an international audience. I look forward to seeing many of you at the conference and do come and check in with us at the UK stand.

Later in the week, we will be watching the Spring Statement with interest as the government outlines the latest economic update and we will update members on the day on the BIA blog with any industry relevant updates.

Last week, we heard from the opposition on their approach to medicines regulation and Brexit in a speech by the shadow Secretary of State for Health Jonathan Ashworth MP. Labour’s clear commitment for the UK to seek to remain part of the EMA is welcome. There is now certainty from the UK of all party parliamentary support for continued close regulatory co-operation on medicines. We also saw the initial response to the speech by Theresa May from the European Commission which was against a sector by sector approach or UKs continuing role in European agencies.

Brexit negotiations are moving on a daily basis at present but our position remains the same as ever and we will bring members up to date on all the twists and turns at our next Brexit Briefing Webinar will be taking place on 23 March and you can sign up on the BIA website today.

It was a busy week in the BIA events calendar last week. A record-breaking Women in Biotech took place on International Women’s Day -the same day that our chair Dr Jane Osbourn was recognised as one of 15 inspirational inspirational Cambridge business women hoping to change the world. Kindly hosted by Instinctif, an engaged WIB audience heard from Sue Charles, Managing Partner for life Sciences at Instinctif, Professor Joanne Hackett, Commercial Director for Genomics England and Jelena Aleksic, CEO, Gene Adviser, discussing the incredible progress made by the UK in Genomics, how the fantastic assets created can be accessed, and what potential the future might hold in this space. There are further Women in Biotech events booked in for later in the year so keep an eye on the BIA events page.

Last week also saw the launch of our new three-day PULSE programme in collaboration with the Francis Crick Institute. 25 up and coming life science entrepreneurs participated, with the sessions run by experienced life science professionals and seasoned entrepreneurs, largely from BIA membership. On the second evening we held networking drinks at the London BioScience Innovation Centre to introduce the candidates to people from the wider sector. The three days came to a successful conclusion with some excellent pitches, four of whom will go forward to present at our CEO & Investor Forum in May – you can book your tickets on the BIA website for the Forum.

PULSE attendees at the Francis Crick Institiute 

On Friday I was at the Prosperity Life sciences conference in Birmingham that was titled: ‘Building and connecting the UK’s capabilities in the life sciences to create a compelling global capability’. The conference was chaired by former Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP and provided a useful forum to explore the future of the UK life sciences sector and how we can continue to build it into the world’s third largest global cluster. This was a positive meeting on the strengths of the sector and will lead to a positive note to ministers on what we can do collectively as an ecosystem to ensure we are best able to capitalise and grow business as the science and capabilities needed evolve to face the challenges of the future. 

We had some sad news last week as Sir John Sulston, human genome pioneer, passed away. Dr Adrian Ibrahim, Head of Technology Transfer and Business Development at the Wellcome Sanger Institute & Chair of the BIA’s Genomics Advisory Committee, said: “John was a truly inspirational scientist.  His leadership was pivotal in the establishment of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the Human Genome Project, open access and genomics.  Few people can leave a legacy as great and life changing as his.  His insights and commitment have helped to shape today’s science and the genomics of tomorrow. He will be missed greatly, but never forgotten.”

Finally, fancy spending a week with an MP or civil servant to help them understand our sector better? The Royal Society's annual pairing scheme offers just such a chance. You will learn about each other’s work by spending time together in Westminster and at your company or institution. Applications are open until Sunday 15th April and you can access the application form here.

I look forward to seeing many of you next week in Cambridge for our networking breakfast - do book here 



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