CEO Update | Tuesday 11 June 2019

Many congratulations to BIA Chair, Dr Jane Osbourn who has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours announced at the weekend. Jane is a true pioneer in our sector, who not only has pioneered world-class research and contributed to blockbuster discoveries but is a passionate advocate for the UK life sciences sector. For me, Jane’s greatest qualities are her abilities to communicate and lead, she has and always will be a trailblazer in our sector and I’m delighted that she has received this award.


In Westminster the Conservative leadership contest to replace Theresa May is underway and we have produced a life sciences focused guide to the runners and riders which is available here. Obviously this will mean a new government will be formed in the summer, and we’ll analyse the statements of the candidates that have relevance for our sector as the campaign develops.


It was great to see so many Brits at the annual BIO conference in Philadelphia last week – celebrating the global impact of our life sciences cluster. Thank you to those who attended our great reception on Tuesday jointly hosted with AstraZeneca, the Department of International Trade, the Welsh Government and Invest Northern Ireland the British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia at the Museum of the American Revolution – whilst President Trump visited the Queen we certainly “took back control” in Philly for the evening! It was great also to attend the launch of HIRANI, the new Northern Ireland innovation network. Click here for more info.    


The fallout from the decision by Neil Woodford to suspend his Equity Income Fund dominated the business headlines last week. We have focused on ensuring journalists covering the story have a strong understanding of who funds our sector, and how that has changed over time, reminding them that 2018 was a record-breaking year for our sector (see our finance report, Confident Capital) with NASDAQ listings continuing into 2019. At the same time, we have explained how value is actually created in biotech companies and why pricing that value in unlisted companies is harder to do. Thank you to BIA members who have contacted me on this subject, I’m keen to hear more. I’d particularly welcome insight from BIA members on likely policy fallout from this on the financial regulation and oversight aspects brought to the fore by media reporting, as I imagine this may become a subject of Westminster scrutiny in the coming months. It would be useful to canvas views ahead of any such activity.   


Access to drugs for CF was also a topic for discussion in Westminster Hall this week following a proposed “buyers’ club” amongst patients for an unlicensed Argentinian product. The Minister’s response is worthy of note for the sector. I continue to believe that a deal between NHS England and Vertex is the best way to ensure patient access to an ongoing pipeline of innovative therapies in CF and hope that one can be concluded as soon as possible.  


UKRI and its nine Councils have each set out their 2019 delivery plans this morning, the first of such documents since the funders came together under the new UKRI umbrella. Key ones for members will be Innovate UK’s, the MRC’s, and BBSRC’s, but all are important reading. It’s good to see a strong emphasis on collaboration with industry in the academic-focussed Councils. Special thanks for that should go to the BIA’s Science and Innovation Advisory Committee (SIAC), which has been working closely with the UKRI and its Councils to ensure there’s close coordination between our communities.    


Have a great week and hope to see you in Alderley Park or Sandwich Discovery park next week.


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