CEO Update|Monday 01 June
The NHS Test and Trace Programme is launched, Gilead’s remdesivir becomes available under the Early Access to Medicines Scheme and BIA members continue to ramp up UK vaccine manufacturing capacity.
Plus, the BIA innovates this week with the popular Women in Biotech series moving to a virtual setting!
Test and Trace Programme
The highly anticipated NHS Test and Trace Programme was launched last week ahead of schedule. It is designed to control the coronavirus outbreak and enable us to return to some normality. During the latest government/industry webinar, it was great to hear from Baroness Dido Harding, Head of the COVID-19 Test and Trace Programme, who explained the four major elements of this new end-to-end system: Test; Trace; Contain; and Enable. This involves: testing at scale; contact tracing; providing an early warning system to identify and contain flareups; and using knowledge gained to enable individuals to return to as close as normal as possible. You can find the slides from the webinar here.
The programme utilises the rapid expansion of the UK’s testing capabilities. Since the start of the pandemic, government and the life sciences industry have worked together to create the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history, comprised of 100 mobile testing units and three mega labs. Both large and small life sciences companies have played their part in building new testing labs, sharing kit, people and materials and contributing to crowd-sourcing new testing methods. Alongside this new programme, government has published guidance for employers and businesses on the new service which you can find here.
Last week the Office for National Statistics released initial data from the infection survey delivered in partnership with IQVIA, Oxford University and UK Biocentre which you can find here.
A reminder that our Testing Methods Sourcing Platform continues to seek new and innovative solutions to help increase COVID-19 testing capacity. We will be updating the platform with new challenges this week so do keep an eye out.
Finally on testing, the MHRA is asking providers of laboratory-based COVID-19 antibody testing services using capillary blood collected by a fingerprick, to temporarily stop providing this service until home collection of this sample type has been properly assessed and validated for use with these laboratory tests.
BIA member LifeArc has announced it is providing £10m for clinical trials to find therapies for COVID-19. A total of 15 projects have been selected involving medicines that have either already been approved for use in other indications or are in late-stage development with a known mechanism of action.
Fantastic news on vaccine manufacturing last week as OxfordBiomedica signed a Clinical & Commercial Supply Agreement with AstraZeneca to manufacture Jenner’s COVID-19 vaccine. Back in February, the BIA reached out to the bioprocessing community with a request from the University of Oxford to scale up the vaccine candidate which led to the formation of a consortium. This new partnership is just one of the incredible results that has come from such a collaborative community and it is heartening to see that BIA members are at the forefront of the global response to the pandemic.
More promising news comes from Gilead as their anti-viral drug, remdesivir, will be available to selected COVID-19 patients following the scientific opinion under the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) issued by the MHRA. This means that a number of patients with severe COVID-19 will be able to access the drug on the NHS. Remdesivir has been shown to reduce recovery time for patients in hospital with COVID-19 from 15 days to 11 days.
This Thursday Gavi’s global vaccine summit is being hosted by the Government. What will be of interest to our community is whether national governments will discuss the idea of a patent pool and if so, what impacts this will have on access to potential COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. One to watch.
Academy of Medical Sciences database launch
Today, the Academy of Medical Sciences has launched a new resource for early stage UK COVID-19 preclinical therapeutics research, to boost collaboration and map the preclinical discovery landscape. The project asks researchers from across academia and industry to submit their research projects through a short online form and will publish the results through an open access database on their website. For more information, please visit the website, or contact Dr James Squires at email@example.com
Women in Biotech
I am looking forward to our first ever virtual Women in Biotech event next Thursday, 4 June. We have an excellent line-up of speakers who will be taking part in a panel discussion on the use of artificial intelligence in biotech. You will also have the chance to network and, similar to an in-person event, move from virtual table to table to mingle with other attendees. Register here.
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.