CEO Update: Monday 14 May

Congratulations to Harren Jhoti of BIA member Astex Pharmaceuticals who was made a fellow of the Royal Society last week. He’s our  BIA Lifetime Achievement Award winner this year and he’ll be joining me for a fireside chat at our  2018 CEO and Investor Forum on  23-24 May.  More on the event in this blog and you can register here.

In member news, it was great to see several BIA members win funding through Innovate UK’s Innovations in health and life sciences round 3 competition, including Peptinnovate, Cobra Biologics, Quadram Institute Bioscience, and Evonetix. Innovate UK has today opened a new £5m funding competition in precision medicine, so do make sure to take a look and apply if you’re suitable.

This week sees the inaugural Life Sciences Council, the new format for the UK government and the life science industry to formally meet. The BIA are core founder members and I look forward to representing you all at this key new meeting. More on this next week but last week on the policy front, the BIA responded to three HM Treasury consultations on a new EIS fund structure, changes to Entrepreneurs’ Relief, and on the Intangible Fixed Assets tax regime. These have been led by our Finance and Tax Advisory Committee (FTAC) but also informed by wider consultation with our membership and the investment community. We’ve welcomed the new fund structure and proposed some innovative new features to promote long-term investment. We’ve been less welcoming of the Entrepreneurs’ Relief proposal and argued for a different approach. And we’ve supported changes to the Intangible Fixed Assets tax regime, which will really benefit some of our members with pre-2002 assets.   

The BIA will be out in force in Scotland this week. On Wednesday we’ve got an event in Glasgow ‘Innovative approaches to funding for Scottish life sciences’. It will be a day of networking and masterclasses focussed on accessing both government and VC funding, and will feature speakers from key sources, and also from companies who have successfully raised funds discussing their experiences and sharing advice. Find out more and register here. The team will also be at the rescheduled Scottish life sciences dinner in Glasgow on Wednesday evening – I’m afraid the Life Science Council prevents me from travelling this year.

Cogent Skills, on behalf of the Science Industry Partnership, is conducting a survey of apprenticeships across the science industry and has requested our help in disseminating this survey to as wide an audience as possible.

The results of the survey will enable the development of a strong, evidence-based message to Government about the uptake of apprenticeships and use of the Levy from a wide range of science employers. This will include any suggestions of changes that would benefit skills in the sector, so your response is vital.  The results from the survey will also enable the production of a sector specific report benchmarked against the wider science industry community. You can find out more and take the survey here.

It’s only a few weeks until the global BIO conference in Boston in June. I’ll be leading a BIA delegation there, and will be participating in two panels focussed on the UK’s AMR scene. You can take a look at all planned BIA activity for the event here. In our webinar last week we gave tips and guidance on the conference, covering everything from transport to networking. If you weren’t able to tune in, we’ll be uploading it to our YouTube channel.

It was interesting thereafter to see President Trump gave his long-awaited speech on drug pricing. Despite the media coverage in the build-up warning of sweeping changes, analysis after the speech said there were many questions left unanswered and biotech and pharma stocks in fact rose following the speech. According to Politico: “Many of the policies the government listed in its 44-page “American Patients First” document plan are either modest steps the administration has already taken, or policies that it has identified as needing further time and study. In fact, the document included 136 question marks.”

The challenges of the opaque US healthcare market not delivering for US citizens is not going to be solved through adding barriers to trade via international trade negotiations or by berating European governments. My view is that if President Trump wants to support biotech innovation he should start at home by ensuring US intellectual property law is consistent with rulings on equivalent issues by courts and patent offices around the world. It is US law that is out of step with the globe and hinders international efforts to harmonise approaches to the disclosure and development of new diagnostic and therapeutic methods, thereby putting at risk the future development of much-needed diagnostics and life-saving medicines. Since the Mayo case, the ever-expanding doctrine of “judicial exceptions” has rampantly infected the US patent system. Meritorious inventions are too often shackled up to a “judicial exception” and, on that basis, are now routinely denied patent protection in the US.

On Friday I’ll be holding this month’s Brexit briefing webinar, during which I’ll be giving an update on Government policy, progress of working groups, and how these potentially affect companies in life sciences. If you’d like to catch up on previous webinars in our Brexit series, you can find them on our YouTube channel.



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