CEO Update | Monday 18 February 2019

BIA Chair Jane Osbourn has announced this week that she is to leave Astra Zeneca after 25 years with Cambridge Antibody Technology and MedImmune. During that time she has achieved a huge amount of biological drug development, with 8 drugs launched, and biologics now making up 50% of the AZ pipeline. Jane will help with organisational transition at AZ for the next few months and has assured the BIA Board that she will continue as BIA Chair until the end of her term. Jane’s news follows AZ’s announcement (alongside their annual results last week) that it will be restructuring the R&D organisation to align with therapy areas. This means the current three AZ science units (MedImmune, Innovative Medicines Development, and Global Medicines Development) are being dissolved and 2 new R&D units are to be created, one of which will focused on oncology and the second covering other therapy areas (Cardiovascular/ Metabolic, Respiratory, Infection and Neuroscience) and also incorporating the discovery platforms.  This reorganisation will also retire the MedImmune brand. I know Jane is looking forward to a new chapter in her career in what she describes as our “wonderful UK biotech community”. She has been a key player in our growing global cluster for many years and will be for many years to come. At the same time, I am reassured that AZ remains committed to continuing to work closely with its biotech partners and the BIA community going forward.

The UK Government’s Office for Life Science has this morning released collated guidance for businesses on no-deal Brexit preparations, based on feedback from businesses. If you have yet to receive a copy and want one please email BIA Brexit Lead Laura Collister. A key development last week was the signing of a Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment between the UK and the USA in the event of no-deal (details here). We’ve collated over a 1000 days-worth of the BIA’s work on Brexit into our new and handy to use BIA Brexit microsite – do take a look here and tell us what you think. We discussed the latest on Brexit in our monthly webinar last Friday, with a key focus on the Statutory Instruments vital to our sector that are heading through parliament. We’ve seen further developments since then, with the announcement by 7 MPs this morning that they are leaving the Labour Party to sit as independents.  If you missed the webinar you can catch up on YouTube.

Despite the sustained uncertainty, BIA members are continuing to deliver globally relevant and game-changing research & development, and collaborate on the big problems. We were delighted to welcome over 180 of our most engaged members to our Committee Summit last Thursday at Simmons & Simmons. The day saw meetings from our Advisory Committees on Cell and Gene Therapy, Engineering Biology, Finance and Tax, Genomics, Intellectual Property, Manufacturing, Regulatory Affairs, and Science & Innnovation, as well as our working groups on Antimicrobial Resistance, and Trade. It was a brilliant day with vibrant interactions. We had an excellent plenary session on the Comprehensive Spending Review, and it was really valuable to have a panel who could explain the complexity of this process and answer questions from members. I was delighted to see the quality of the discussions and the diversity of the membership involved.

It was also great to see a historic deal signed last week for the creation of a major hub in the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter near King’s Cross. The British Library, Stanhope PLC and Mitsui Fudosan inked a deal that will see the expansion of the beloved British Library, along with new exhibition space and a permanent home for the Alan Turing Institute, right beside the Crick. This area of London houses BIA members The Crick, The Wellcome Trust, Benevolent AI and UCL – and I want to ensure this new development enables UK SMEs to access space at the heart of the Knowledge Quarter.

The University of Manchester has been awarded £10 million from BBSRC and EPSRC to launch a UK-wide Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub, which hopes to join up underpinning technologies (including synthetic biology) and developments in industrial biotech to enable efficient, sustainable and innovative bio-based manufacturing in pharmaceuticals, value-added chemicals and engineering materials. It’s great to see this continued investment into the sector.

It was also great to see BIA member AKL’s Innovate UK grant award for the development of a treatment of osteoarthritis receive positive media coverage as the company prepare of its phase 2 trial. The phase 1 trial currently underway at the University of Liverpool, and is expected to end this summer.

You can now register for our March webinar on Applying Maths to 3Rs Problems here, and you can save the date for the annual MMIP conference in Liverpool in November.