CEO Update | Monday 25 January

In normal times, this week we would be preparing for the BIA’s annual Gala Dinner, a key sector event for networking and a relaxed platform to celebrate the sector’s many successes. Although we can’t meet in person currently, there are colleagues from across the ecosystem who are working day and night to make our return to normal closer. Whether in vaccines, therapeutics or diagnostics, the UK biotech and life science sector’s response to COVID-19 will continue to lead the world’s way out of this pandemic and to get all of our lives back to normal.  

Thank you again to every individual and company working on finding solutions. As your trade association, our future campaigns will be making clear our sector’s crucial role in tackling the virus and supporting the global recovery. We will be marking the Gala Dinner on social media, so do keep an eye on the BIA Twitter account on Thursday 28 January, where appearances will be made by some well-known sector faces…

We have our usual exciting calendar of events, which includes a virtual roundtable with the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), our annual BIA Committee Summit and the industry-acclaimed two day programme for up and coming biotech entrepreneurs, PULSE!

Today we have published our latest quarterly update which gives an overview of key policy developments and the BIA’s continued engagement with policymakers, regulatory authorities and other stakeholders on behalf of the UK life sciences sector from October 2020 to January 2021. Read it here.


COVID-19 developments

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Oxford Biomedica’s new manufacturing facility, Oxbox, which is manufacturing the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca/Vaccitech COVID-19 vaccine.

In April 2020, Oxford Biomedica joined the Oxford Vaccine Consortium and shortly afterwards signed the first of two agreements with AstraZeneca for COVID-19 vaccine production. By October 2020, Oxford Biomedica had four manufacturing suites approved by the MHRA, three of which were contracted by AstraZeneca and are currently producing bulk vaccine at 1000L scale.

It was promising to hear that the Oxford vaccine team is preparing to design new versions of its jab in response to the different coronavirus variants. When asked about the impact of variants on vaccines, Boris Johnson highlighted his confidence in the MHRA to turn around applications for new variants of vaccines in a timely manner.

It was fantastic to see positive trial data on Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody therapy. Lilly’s neutralising antibody significantly reduced the risk of contracting symptomatic COVID-19 among residents and staff of care homes, reducing risk by up to 80% for residents.


Horizon Europe

The BIA has further information on Horizon Europe which we would be happy to share with BIA members on request. The UK is almost certain to join Horizon Europe as an associate member, subject to ratification of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Please get in touch with Tim Windle ( for more information.


National Apprenticeship Week

National Apprenticeship Week 2021 (8 – 14 February) aims to shine a light on the amazing work being done by employers and apprentices across the country. To join in the national and cross-sectoral celebrations the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC) is hosting a virtual lunch and learn session on Friday 12 February, 12:00 – 14:00 for existing and potential employers of ATAC. As well as hearing from current apprentices and employers, we will also be celebrating the success of the programme with an awards ceremony. Register here.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Collaborative Training Partnerships scheme has just opened for proposals. The programme is a brilliant opportunity for businesses to lead on doctoral training in the biosciences in collaboration with the UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Bids can be led by a single business, or consortia of businesses and should aim to address industrial research challenges. Further information about the scheme, including how to apply, is available on the UKRI/BBSRC website.

One to put on your radar, the Uzbek-British Trade & Industry Council (UBTIC) is being held in early February and it will include a session on healthcare and life sciences opportunities in Uzbekistan. The program of the event can be found here. Uzbekistan is an emerging market for a number of UK sectors and the Uzbek government’s hospital building programme will provide opportunities for UK companies. Register your interest here.

It was great to see the Government announce investment in two railway lines, one of which is a line connecting Oxford and Cambridge, two of the UK’s key life sciences hubs. This will be a key transport link for those working in the life sciences ecosystem.


Steve Bates

Chief Executive Officer


Steve Bates has been the CEO of the UK Bioindustry Association since 2012. He currently chairs the International Council of Biotech Associations and has been a Board member of Europabio since 2015. Steve is the visible face of the vibrant UK life sciences industry to government and media. He sits on the UK’s Life Sciences Council and Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Board. Steve has championed with government effective industrial incentives like the Biomedical Cataylst which have crowded-in private sector investment into UK SMES. He has forged links for the sector across the USA, Europe and in China. In his time at the BIA Steve has developed new member groups focused on cell and gene therapy, genomics and engineered biology. A strong advocate of partnership working, Steve champions sector collaboration with research charities and academia. Proud to lead an organisation with a diverse Board with over 40% female representation, Steve is committed to next generation talent and developing the skills needed for the sector to flourish. Before the BIA, Steve worked for Genzyme and as an advisor to the UK Government of Tony Blair. He was made OBE for services to innovation in 2017.