CEO Update | Tuesday 7 May 2019

The Government’s Office for Life Sciences published its official statistics on the bioscience and health technology sector for 2018 on 1 May. The new report shows that the UK life sciences industry is in a healthy state employing 248,400 people in 5,8701 businesses generating a turnover of £73.8bn. It’s an interesting data snapshot of our ecosystem and shows that 80% of the businesses in the industry are SMEs. It also rightly highlights the role of service and supply businesses in the sector which are increasing in turnover as the world’s pharmaceutical firms seek more of their R+D from outsourced providers.  


The report provided the backdrop to an important speech by Health Minister Nicola Blackwood at the ABPI annual conference last Thursday, in which the Government's commitment to our sector was re-stated. The key announcement was the beefing up of the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) under Lord Darzi’s leadership, where government, NHS and industry leaders will work together to oversee the health innovation ecosystem. The Minister announced that Dr Sam Roberts, currently Director of Innovation and Research at NHS England and NHS Improvement, has been appointed as the AAC’s first chief executive, who will jointly report to DHSC ministers, NHS England and NHS Improvement. The BIA has also been offered a seat on the AAC Board as part of the changes. We are delighted to be working at the heart of this new initiative, which has the opportunity to link up and drive NHS and life science strategy work.


Last Tuesday around 30 SMEs and funders attended the Spring 2019 Science and Innovation Advisory Committee (SIAC) Workshop, ‘Working Together to Shape the Future’, at member company Bristows. The productive roundtable discussions focused on how UK SMEs, UKRI and other funders can work most effectively together to ensure the success of these important engines of innovation and translation. The discussions led to several recommendations which will now be developed further.


This week we may see the outcome of Brexit talks between the Government and the Labour opposition given renewed focus after last week’s local election results.


Last week in the European Medicine Agency (EMA) 2018 annual report Guido Rasi, the head of the EMA worryingly said there is “no escaping” that Brexit has had an impact on the regulator’s ability to foster medicines development in Europe. This is the key message that we need to land with the Brexit negotiators on both sides of the channel – that divergence and separate regulatory systems would hit the ability of EU countries and the UK “to keep abreast of scientific and regulatory developments and to support research and development of medicines in Europe.”  Last week also saw the news that the head of devices at the MHRA John Wilkinson is standing down. He had been with the agency for 7 years and departs as the agency continues to seek a replacement for Chief Executive Ian Hudson.  To stay up to date with Brexit, be sure to register for our webinar on Thursday 16 May, where BIA Brexit Lead Laura Collister and I will discuss the latest for our sector. If you would like to catch up with previous webinars, you can take a look at our YouTube channel or listen to the podcasted version in the Apple store or on Soundcloud.


Our very own Michael McGivern and Jon Kudlick will be heading out to Israel next week, leading a UK delegation along with The Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and UK Israel Tech Hub. MIXiii Biomed takes place from 14-16 May and attracts over 6,000 healthcare professionals, scientists, engineers and investors from 45 countries. It provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase the UK as a global leader in biotech. BIA members Sensyne Health and Horizon Discovery will join our delegation. International engagement is a key priority for us at the BIA and we look forward to seeing what the conference brings this year.