CEO Update|Monday 02 December 2019

It was a real pleasure to see so many of you up in Liverpool last week for our bioProcessUK conference.


It’s an exciting time to be part of a growing sector that is bringing high-value manufacturing jobs back to the British regions. The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult published a new report at the conference showcasing the UK’s cell and gene manufacturing capabilities, showing that there are now 26 MHRA-licensed facilities and two commercial operations – both run by BIA members. It’s great to see this industry of the future flourishing in the UK, as our recent report also highlighted.


Skills was another focus of the conference, particularly in the application of digital technology. We launched our new skills pages on the BIA website providing a fantastic new one-stop-shop for everything you need to know. It was inspiring to hear from those involved in our LeaP programme, which is developing and training the leaders of the future and I urge you all to look at how you can use this scheme to help ensure our sector continues to grow.  


We also recognised achievement in the current workforce, with Sharon Grimster of ReNeuron and Dr Sarah Goulding of the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) awarded the prestigious Peter Dunnill award and Richard Wilson impact award respectively. Congratulations to them both.


It’s good to see the bioProcessUK get bigger and better every year, thank you to everyone who attended and made it a success. The BIA is proud to be at the heart of such a vibrant community.


Ahead of bioProcessUK, I was in Shanghai for the BioCentury and BayHelix China Healthcare Summit. The impact of the new regulatory environment is leading to a flurry of launches, but it is clear that market access and pricing remain a challenge. It’s also evident that the US-China trade war is the new normal, but this is driving increased focus on Europe, to America’s loss. There was a very strong UK presence across the conference and particularly GSK, which is ramping up its activity in China, with Emma Walmsley meeting President Xi recently.


We then headed to Wuxi with a delegation of our members to the International Life Sciences campus, where AstraZeneca is expanding its presence at a phenomenal rate. The BIA has an MOU with the campus to help our members establish themselves in China, please do get in touch if you want more information.           


Back to the UK and all the major parties have now published their manifestos. I expect you all have General Election fatigue but do take a moment to look at the analysis put together by our policy and public affairs team which identifies the key issues for our sector. All the main parties have committed to increasing R&D funding, but they have very different ideas on how to increase patient access to innovative medicines. I was interested to hear Boris Johnson say he’d amend State Aid rules to support British businesses, which could potentially open up the possibility of doing away with the ‘undertakings in difficulty’ restrictions which have been causing problems for many of our members when trying to access Innovate UK grants. The Conservatives have also taken up the BIA’s call to include data in R&D tax credits and unlock long-term capital in UK pension funds to fuel the continued growth of our science and technology industries. This is an important agenda that we’ve been working on for the past few years, so alongside our manifesto analysis we’ve published a blog on the progress that has been made and what more needs to be done.


Former Science Minister and BIA Board member Lord Willetts has made his own contribution to the debate on how R&D should be funded with this report, which provides a robust argument for backing the UK’s world-leading industries such as engineering biology and cell and gene therapies. He also backs the BIA’s call for the Biomedical Catalyst to be refilled. It’s very much worth reading. Last week also saw the Royal Academy of Engineering  publish their own report on engineering biology. I spoke at the press conference and there was good pickup in the media of the great benefits our sector is bringing to society.


We were also intrigued to see the Sunday Times reporting that the British Business Bank will be investing directly into biotech businesses. Our understanding is that that it will be all tech, not just biotech. However, before the election, the Conservatives did announce an extra £200m to be invested in life sciences via the Bank, which we will be holding them to, should they get back into power and urging them to go further.


bioProcessUK was our last big event of the year but we are already looking ahead to an outstanding events calendar in 2020, which will kick off with our Gala Dinner on 23 January. Do get your ticket if you haven’t already. I look forward to seeing you there!




Steve Bates

Chief Executive Officer


Since his appointment as Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association in 2012, Steve has led major BIA campaigns for, amongst other things, improved access to finance, the refilling of the Biomedical Catalyst, anti-microbial resistance and the opportunity the sector presents to generalist long term investors. Steve champions the adaptive pathway approach to the licensing of new drugs, the need for Early Access and is particularly proud of the working relationship the BIA has established with the UK’s leading medical research charities.

A founder member of United Life Sciences, a strategic partnership representing over 1000 life science and healthcare member companies across the UK and internationally, Steve attends the UK’s Ministerial Industry Strategy Group, and sits on The Royal Society's Science, Industry and Translation Committee.

Beyond the UK Steve is a member of EuropaBio’s Board and its National Association Council and is a founder member of the International Confederation of Biotech Associations. An expert and regular commentator on the sector in the media and at industry-leading conferences Steve has worked both in biotech (as Senior Director at Genzyme UK and Ireland) and at the highest levels of UK government (as Special Advisor to John Reid, MP, during his time in Tony Blair’s government) for over 15 years. Steve was awarded the OBE in January 2017.