CEO Update | Monday 16 November

COVID-19

Breaking news today that Moderna has released initial data on their mRNA vaccine’s Phase 3 study, which met statistical criteria with a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%. The phase 3 trial was conducted in the US in partnership with BARDA and Operation Warp Speed and based on these interim safety and efficacy data, Moderna intends to submit an application for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the coming weeks. It’s great news and following last week’s announcement by Pfizer/Biontech, shows the importance of smaller biotech companies in our innovation ecosystem.   

Last week the world continued to react to the positive news of Pfizer/BioNTech’s first interim efficacy analysis of their mRNA vaccine. It will take a monumental effort by industry, the Government’s Vaccine Taskforce, the NHS and Public Health England to prepare for a successful deployment of an mRNA vaccine in UK.  The UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and Chief Executive of the MHRA, Dr June Raine, held an informative press conference on how the MHRA will handle the vital safety and efficacy regulatory process which is now before us.   It was heartening to hear Professor Van-Tam state “If I could, rightly and morally, be at the very front of the queue [for a vaccine], then I would do so, because I absolutely trust the judgment of the MHRA on safety and efficacy”.

There was further positive news from BIA member Synairgen, that their new inhaled protein treatment has been found to accelerate recovery and lower the odds of developing severe COVID-19 in patients as the full findings of their earlier stage trial were published in the Lancet.

BIA events

The BIA is finishing the year with some high calibre events for members and the wider life sciences community, including our annual bioProcessUK conference 1-2 December. The event has moved to a digital format and will include a virtual networking evening. Attendees who register by the deadline of 20 November will receive a beer tasting kit and a small food hamper (subject to availability). At the conference you will hear about the latest developments in medicines manufacturing, including the extraordinary work which the UK bioprocessing community has done to support COVID-19 vaccines.

This week we are holding two informative webinars. The first event, with our charity of the year Versus Arthritis, will focus on developments in research involvement and participation work at Versus Arthritis.

We are also holding a member-only roundtable event, which will be an introduction to trade negotiations, at which we will be joined by Tim Harris, Head of Section, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) at the Department for International Trade. To register, please follow this link.

Finance

A win for BIA advocacy, with special credit to our Finance and Tax Advisory Committee, as the Government confirmed last week that there will be a R&D tax credit cap exemption to protect genuine biotech companies. Draft legislation to implement the SME R&D tax credit PAYE cap published on 12 November confirms that the Government intends to implement a targeted exemption as proposed by the BIA. The changes will be introduced for an accounting period beginning on or after 1 April 2021. For a December year-end this means the cap rules will be in force for 2022 onwards. Further details can be found here.

report published last week by the British Business Bank is the most comprehensive analysis of UK life sciences venture capital performance to date and it reveals that life sciences investments have performed as well as or better than those in non-life sciences. Our Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Dr Martin Turner has written a blog exploring this further, which can be found here

Celebrating the achievements of the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community

I really enjoyed reading these case studies by the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult on the impact of the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC) apprenticeship programme. There is a fascinating case study on the first apprentice to graduate from ATAC, Emilia Rayes Pabon, which you can read here.

BioBeat Movers and Shakers report

Last week BioBeat released their Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2020 report and it was fantastic to see so many women from BIA member companies feature, including representatives from Alchemab, ImmTune Therapies, PetMedix, Syncona, Epidarex Capital, Sanger and many more. To read the report, please follow this link.

Measurement for Recovery (M4R) industry recovery programme

The Measurement for Recovery (M4R) programme has been developed to help UK industry address problems in innovative ways by providing companies with access to the UK’s top scientists, engineers and specialist lab facilities of the UK National Measurement Laboratories, at no charge. M4R can help solve analysis or measurement issues that cannot be resolved using standard technologies and techniques and is enabling businesses large and small to use experts to bring confidence to their decision making, drive efficiency and deliver innovation including support for new products, services and processes.