CEO Update | Monday 24 June 2019

It has been an incredibly busy couple of weeks for our sector, there have been developments with the Brexit timeline, as well as positive domestic news, all coming within a short space of time.

We had great news coming out of the  Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) annual conference, with news that member company Pfizer are investing £5m to grow its manufacturing capabilities for paediatric medicines at its Discovery Park site in Sandwich, Kent. It’s also been great to see coverage of some of the pioneering treatments coming from our sector. The BBC last week covered the fantastic steps being taking in CAR-T  and the effect genome sequencing could have in revolutionising the diagnosis of rare childhood conditions.


Now onto Brexit. The Tory leadership race has now been whittled down to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, with the winner due to be announced in the week of 22 July. In evidence I gave to the Exiting the European Union committee last week I again repeated that a no deal Brexit must be avoided and that the UK government risked weighing the scales against the positive investment decisions and undermining the UK’s reputation for science excellence that it has built over the years. 

It is against that backdrop that we have released our latest finance data which shows that UK biotech companies raised £214m from public markets between March and May 2019, more than double compared to the previous quarter, bringing the half-year total to £311m.  The BIA is also taking steps to forge links with new global investors, on Friday we hosted key movers from the Hong Kong stock exchange to inform them of the opportunities in UK biotech.


Last week, we published a new BIA report – Life sciences: Catalysing investment and growth – which aims to inform government and UKRI thinking ahead of the upcoming Spending Review and the Government’s 2.4% R&D target. I was delighted to chair a roundtable with BIA members, civil servants and funders to discuss the report and the sector’s priorities on public funding streams, fiscal R&D incentives and support for the broader life sciences ecosystem.


We had an excellent turnout and government representatives included the Office for Life Sciences, HM Treasury, Department for Health, the Business Department, UKRI, MRC, BBSRC and the British Business Bank. While the timelines and scope of the Spending Review are still uncertain, government and industry need to continue to work together to increase R&D investment and the roundtable was another great step in this vital partnership.


Last week I was at Alderley Park for our regional networking event, engaging with companies on-site and regionally. We heard from two companies that have been through the Alderley Park Accelerator and how they have used the skills they gained to improve their business strategy when looking to scale-up. After some fruitful networking Nigel Brooks, from CellCentric, ran a workshop on how to engage with the different CROs at Alderley even if you are not located on-site.

Over 150 delegates attended the MMIP Conference last Thursday at Discovery Park in Kent, hosted by Pfizer and led by ABPI, where the theme was Medicines Manufacturing Excellence in the UK. I was delighted to help set the scene for the day in the opening session and enjoyed hearing from panels and speakers throughout the day focusing on the impact of advanced digital technologies on the future of medicines manufacturing, as well as the skills required to embrace these technologies. One highlight for me was hearing from the Pfizer digital apprentices in a panel hosted by BIA’s Skills Strategy Consultant, Dr Kate Barclay – the apprentices were great ambassadors, reminding us of the importance of this route into science.  

The final session of the day focussed on anchoring manufacturing in the UK through a competitive fiscal landscape, end to end skills strategy and analytical capability, with James Miskin of Oxford BioMedica showcasing the ongoing work in the cell and gene therapy sector to ensure we retain the health and economic benefits of these new therapies in the UK.

We have a number of BIA events coming up throughout the year which will be of interest to our different communities. Our summer reception is selling fast, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to network in one of London’s most iconic locations, Tower Bridge. Also for those who enjoy a bit of regulation, we will be holding a regulatory conference in September which will include discussions around the UK global capability for clinical trials and bringing innovative medicines to market.


I’m also delighted that our Science and Innovation Advisory Committee (SIAC) are holding a number of webinars called  ‘Bench to Bedside, the first of which is this Friday and will discuss the critical path from discovery to market with an emphasis on strategies which can enhance potential for success.