CEO Update | Tuesday 28 May 2019

Last week was another big week in Westminster as Theresa May announced her timetable for stepping down as Prime Minister. A number of Conservative politicians have already announced their intentions to stand for the party leadership.  This comes after the European Parliamentary elections, where the predicted surge of support for the Brexit Party did materialise.  

The UK’s new contingent of MEPs will shortly be heading to Brussels and Strasbourg and the BIA will provide a  briefing for them on the key issues facing the UK life sciences sector. We will continue to advocate for the sector’s Brexit positions with all relevant stakeholders, especially the need for a formal relationship between the MHRA and the European Medicines Agency. We will also carefully monitor the Conservative Party leadership race and analyse candidates’ positions and intentions for our sector.


As I like to remind people, whatever twists or turns Brexit brings, the UK life sciences ecosystem is inherently strong, underpinned by a fantastic research base and is home to innovative companies working at the forefront of pioneering treatments.  Remember, the UK is still the third largest global biotech cluster outside  the United States and data from the BIA showed that 2018 was a record year for venture capital investment in UK biotech. Last week’s news from both Life Arc and the Institute of Cancer Research Centre of Drug Discovery, is further proof of the strength and success of our sector.


It would be remiss of me not to mention the fantastic events and opportunities for networking over the summer with the BIA. This year’s summer networking reception will be held at the iconic Tower Bridge  - this is a great opportunity to toast the arrival of summer and relax in a beautiful setting forty-two metres above the River Thames, with colleagues from across the sector.


Also fast approaching is the next in our Women in Biotech series, which will be held at the BioEscalator in Oxford. We will be joined by four inspirational founders, who will talk us through their challenges and successes in starting a biotech company. We are also very lucky to have Science Disrupt founder Gemma Milne lead this inspiring discussion. Finally, for our members and non-members in and around Manchester, our next free networking lunch takes place on 18 June at Alderley Park, where we have two companies sharing their stories of scaling up.


The focus on access to medicines for rare diseases continues in the media and in Parliament. The Health and Social Care Select Committee in the House of Commons has asked for updates from NHS England, NICE and Vertex on progress in coming to an agreement to secure access to Orkambi for patients with cystic fibrosis.


John Stewart, the head of specialised commissioning at NHS England responded noting that a new offer from NHS England had been shared with Vertex, including a managed access agreement, similar to agreements made on Spinraza and Ocrevus in recent weeks. It’s clear from  John Stewart’s response (and Vertex’s response which followed shortly after), that negotiations continue to be intense. We hope that  the NHS and Vertex are able to come to a conclusion that ensures both access for patients   and  that the future development of new treatments is effectively supported.


The BIA attended the Vax-Hub and Future Targeted Healthcare Manufacturing Hub User Steering Committee meetings at UCL on Monday and Tuesday of last week to hear about the great work being undertaken as well as contribute to roundtables scoping the future direction of Hub research.


For those of you with a sweet tooth  Action Medical Research, the BIA’s charity of the year, will be holding Action Cream Teas on the 27 June 2019. This promises to be a fun day for you and your office to enjoy some delicious cream teas while the proceeds will help fund the important work and research that Action Medical do on behalf of sick babies, children and young people.  To find out further information please follow this link.