CEO Update | Monday 29 March

New data released today by the BIA and Clarivate reveals that 2021 is on track to be another record-breaking year for UK biotech investment. More than £830m in fresh capital was raised in the first quarter, almost matching the £894m raised in the first half of 2020, which itself was a record-breaking year.

This strong start to 2021 shows the incredible appetite among international and domestic investors for the UK’s world-leading life sciences companies. This has been reinforced by the recent announcement that £1 billion will be invested in the sector through a UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership. Access to the capital to scale at pace remains a key constraint in the funding landscape for UK life sciences companies. The Life Sciences Investment Programme, which will contribute to the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership, is a welcome new government initiative to catalyse later-stage life sciences investment from UK and global financial institutions.

Alongside high levels of investment, our sector is providing strong returns for its financial backers. An analysis by Radnor Capital Partners on behalf of the BIA found that biotech companies quoted on the London Stock Exchange have out-performed the FTSE-All Share by 256% in the past year. UK life sciences companies are providing returns to investors both in their pockets and in their arms through COVID-19 vaccines.

We are celebrating this positive news on social media and do join in the conversation using #InvestinBiotech.


Busy end of term in government

Last week saw a pre-Easter rush of government announcements. The new NIHR strategy for clinical trials was published, alongside the roadmap for the UK Health Security Agency which has been set up by Health Secretary Matt Hancock. From the Labour benches Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds praised the collaboration between AstraZeneca and Oxford University in her speech on the innovation economy at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders conference.


COVID-19 vaccines

Last week EU leaders met to discuss ways to increase their COVID-19 vaccine supplies. It was encouraging to see the industry message about the need to keep global supply chains for vaccines open was supported by both the President of the European Union and US President Biden.

It's clear that working in partnership and understanding the scale and complexity of the industrial challenge is the best way to accelerate the production, delivery and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines. This task remains essential and the UK life sciences industry will continue to play its role as a core part of the innovative global supply chain in the weeks and months ahead.

I was glad to see this sentiment shared by EuropaBio and I emphasised the importance of international collaboration on BBC Newsnight last week. We need to find practical ways to increase the number of vaccines available and increasing any barriers to trade will make this very difficult.


Scottish life sciences

The spotlight was on Scotland’s vibrant life sciences sector last week, with our Glasgow-focussed regional event followed by Scotland’s Life Sciences Annual Awards. It was fantastic to hear from Glasgow companies which are at the forefront of new digital approaches to drug discovery, development and manufacturing. Thanks are due to our panel for a fascinating discussion.

Congratulations to BIA member Medannex for winning three awards at the Scottish Life Sciences virtual award ceremony including, Investment of the Year, Outstanding Skills Development and Founder Chris Wood receiving the Lifetime Achievement award.

Our next regional event will be focussed on advanced therapies in the South West. Register here.


Upcoming events

Next week BioEscalator is running a webinar on the role of the BIA Antibody Taskforce, a world-leading consortium of biotech companies, charities and academia based across the UK which share a joint commitment to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Jane Osbourn OBE, CSO of Alchemab and Professor Paul Kellam, VP Infectious diseases and vaccines at Kymab, will discuss their collaborative roles in the Taskforce to identify and develop new therapeutics in the fight against COVID-19. Register here.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the NC3Rs’ CRACK IT open innovation scheme connecting academics, SMEs and large firms across the biosciences. To celebrate, NC3Rs is hosting a webinar each month to showcase the products that have been developed through the scheme. The April webinar will focus on the virtual laboratory platforms developed by UK SME Simomics to address the Virtual Infectious Disease Research Challenge. Find out more and register here.

Newscast will take a break for Easter and be back on April 12 2021.


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.