CEO Update | Monday 7 January 2019

Happy New Year everyone. I write this on my way to San Francisco to start the year at the JP Morgan conference. This look ahead to 2019 summarises my key themes for the year and closes with a quick summary of UK news that came out over the holiday period.   


Theme one for 2019

Policy matters and it has a direct impact on our sector; whether it’s Trump, Trade, or Brexit. We can see from stock markets that uncertainty is hitting market sentiment . Whether or not specific policies such as President Trump’s ideas for global reference pricing for US drugs ever come to pass, floating the idea sets a context and a frame of reference for business planning. Tariffs and trade concerns affect all sectors, especially in a scenario where the World Trade Organisation ceases to operate effectively as a result of US Administration inaction. And this week we’ve seen the direct impact on our sector of the US border wall budget showdown with the partial US Government shutdown directly affecting FDA activity - which is currently not accepting  any new regulatory submissions.


Here in the UK we’ve lived with the uncertainty of Brexit for the last couple of years and as we enter 2019 that continues – our recent webinar gives our current analysis of the state of play – watch Westminster developments next week for the next inflection point. As you’ve heard me say repeatedly, our sector is resilient and entrepreneurial and benefits from being based on fundamentals (scientific discovery, an aging population, the rise of a global middle class seeking health) immune to Brexit. But whatever scenario emerges. Brexit will have far reaching impacts for BIA members and we will continue to provide both a strong voice for the sector and rapid and actionable analysis for members through the year. 


Theme two

Large pharma pipeline needs are still driving a thriving M&A environment for 2019. This week we’ve seen the announcement of the biggest ever pharmaceutical deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s planned acquisition of Celgene in a deal valued at $74 billion. (Remember Celgene itself bought Juno for $9 billion and Impact Biosciences for $7billion last year). Just before Christmas we saw key UK player GSK make a big move with the decision to create the world’s biggest consumer healthcare business with Pfizer, with the potential to demerge this part of the business within three years, allowing GSK to focus on building its pipeline of new therapies in a more focused business. Now the GSK acquisition of Tesaro for £4 billion in early December looks like a key step for a larger new strategy.


Theme three

Cell and gene therapies are vital to the future of our sector. Here the UK can go confidently into 2019 with a robust and growing ecosystem playing a key global role across all aspects of development. This is the message I’ll be hammering home to a global audience during JP Morgan week. On cell and gene the UK is delivering world-class basic research, being scaled up and clinically developed by world-class teams in UK-based companies, supported and enabled by world-class manufacturers, in a healthcare system that already has created a way to deliver reimbursed usage.


If you are in San Francisco today for JP Morgan or want to understand more of what it’s all about, we held a webinar on getting the most out of the conference – but not to worry if you couldn’t make it, you can catch up on YouTube.


3 Key pieces of UK news that you may have missed over the holiday period



Life Science Minister James O’Shaughnessy stepped down at the turn of the year for family reasons. He will be a hard act to follow. His passion for our sector was clear. He has been a tireless champion for the UK life science in government. The Brexit Deal and the preparations for no deal planning have benefited significantly from his intellect and leadership. His capacity to speedily focus on the detail and get things moving across government will be hard to match. Media speculation is that former Health Minister, former chair of the science and technology committee and former Oxford MP, Nicola Blackwood looks set to be elevated to the Lords to replace him – fortunately she knows our sector well and would be well-placed to hit the ground running.



Last week, the MHRA published a further guidance note on the regulation of medicines, medical devices and clinical trials in the event of a no deal Brexit. In addition to this they published an update on negotiations and further guidance for pharmaceutical companies planning in advance of the final negotiated settlement, and technical information on what an implementation period would mean for the life sciences sector. The BIA has been clear that a no deal scenario is not in the best interest of patients or BIA member companies but I was pleased to see that fee waivers for small companies are included in the new proposals – something we at the BIA have been active and vocal about on your behalf.


And Three

It was great to see some key players in our industry recognised in the New Year's Honours List. Dr Patrick Vallance and Prof Jeremy James Farrar from the Wellcome Trust were given Knighthoods and  Nicola Yates, Senior Vice President, Europe, Pharmaceuticals GSK given an Order of the British Empire for services to Women in Business and Workplace Equality.


Don’t forget that on the return from San Francisco it will be just a couple of weeks to the BIA Gala dinner on 24 January. The CEO of NHS England Simon Stevens will be joining us as our keynote speaker and it promises to be a vibrant night as always. This year will be joined by some great VIPs including Sir Mark Walport. A few last minute Individual tickets are available by booking here.


Wishing you a fantastic 2019.       






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