CEO Update|Monday 02 November
Steve Bates reports on the latest COVID-19 news, important financing rounds for member companies and upcoming events, including the BIA’s last Women in Biotech event of 2020.
Lockdown meeting with Ministers
With an England wide month-long lockdown set for later this week I am meeting with government ministers tomorrow to understand the latest guidance and implications for our sector. As our industry understands how to, and has been operating in, a COVID-19 secure manner for months and I hope this will have less of a direct impact on BIA members than on companies in other sectors. Do let me know if there any specific concerns members have so I can raise them.
Fantastic news last week from our UK BIA Antibody Taskforce, which has announced the identification of differentiated antibody combinations that will be taken forward for further development as an antibody “cocktail” in treating COVID-19.
This ground-breaking Taskforce, under the leadership of Dr Jane Osbourn OBE, has brought together UK-based industry experts who share a joint commitment to help fight COVID-19. Made up of a world-leading consortium of biotech companies, charities and academia based across the UK, the team have contributed their expertise and specialist resources, working tirelessly to identify the most promising antibodies with the potential to treat and protect against COVID-19. The Taskforce has accelerated the standard timelines for antibody discovery, taking 7 months rather than the industry standard 18 months.
The next phase of the project will involve manufacturing of the selected antibody cocktails to support initial clinical trials in 2021, to provide essential safety and efficacy data.
You can find out more about the Taskforce here, including details on all organisations involved. CPI has created an informative video explaining how antibody treatments can be used to complement other approaches such as vaccines and blood plasma therapy, watch here.
UK Vaccine Taskforce outreach
The UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce has put together an informative podcast series ‘COVID-19: The Search a Vaccine’. Each week Kate Bingham, Chair of the Taskforce, is joined by a panel of experts to discuss a number of topics regarding COVID-19 vaccines such as manufacturing, safety, global distribution and more. The latest edition is titled ‘When will we have a vaccine?’ with special guests include Dr. Helen Horton, Chief Research Officer at BIA member Touchlight Genetics Ltd and scientific advisor to the vaccine task force; and Dr. Clive Dix, Vice-Chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce. Listen here and please share with your networks.
I’d also recommend reading Kate Bingham’s article in the Lancet ‘The UK Government's Vaccine Taskforce: strategy for protecting the UK and the world’ for an insight into the Government’s vaccine strategy.
A recent appearance by Kate at a conference for women in private equity also made news this weekend, even though the fact of her appearance at, and the content of her presentation received approval from officials at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy in line with the process governing such engagements. As BIA members know, Kate has done a wide range of outreach in her role including our own conferences and numerous civil society meetings with groups such as Global Justice Now, without making the headlines.
We’ve seen some fantastic fundraising within our membership over the last month. This includes CellCentric who have raised $33m to broaden clinical trials of its novel drug to treat late stage prostate cancer, haematological malignancies as well as tumours with specific drivers.
Prokarium, a biotech focussed on developing microbial cancer immunotherapies, has also seen success with the close of a $21m Series B financing round led by Korea Investment Partners (KIP). In addition to KIP, the Government’s Future Fund (FF), Flerie Invest and Riyadh Valley Company (RVC) also participated in the financing round. The funds will support the development efforts of their microbial immunotherapy for the treatment of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, as well as the expansion of their pipeline across multiple solid tumours.
BIA view on UK Government Statutory Instrument for the rollout of COVID-19 and flu vaccines
The UK Government has recently published its formal response to the consultation on changes to the Human Medicine Regulations (HMRs) to support the effective rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine and the upscaling of flu vaccination programme in the UK. We have put together a blog post to explain the position the BIA took during the expeditated consultation process, please read it here.
Advanced Therapy Skills Training Networks
The Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult received £4.7m to kick-start Advanced Therapy Skills Training Network (ATSTN) to boost cell and gene therapy as well as vaccine skills. This includes development of a network of National Training Centres starting with expansion of existing training facilities to deliver focussed ATMP and vaccine training facilities across the UK. Initial focus is on physical training for vaccine manufacturing and advanced therapies including good manufacturing practice (GMP), process development and bioprocessing.
If you would like to apply for funding to help deliver this, the Specification document has now been published on the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult’s procurement platform, Wax Digital. All suppliers who wish to submit a proposal need to register here and complete the required Due Diligence details, then email the CGTC Procurement Lead Tony Morris who will add you to the project in the Wax system. We encourage you to do this as soon as possible, as the registration and Due Diligence process may take a few days to complete. Suppliers need to submit their proposals before 25 November 2020.
Last Women in Biotech of 2020
This Wednesday marks the last Women in Biotech event of the year, and I hope to see many of you there virtually. Although we can’t all meet in Manchester, we will virtually hear from a panel of inspiring women in our sector based in the Manchester area. Have a look at the agenda and register here.
BVCA’s Digital Sector Forum
The BIA is supporting the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association’s (BVCA) upcoming forum on Financial Services and Healthcare. These half-day forums provide virtual networking and in-depth analysis of the trends, issues, rate of growth and appeal for private equity and venture capital investors within these sectors. The Healthcare session covers key topics from finding, funding and building the UKs biotechnology capabilities to innovating an industry for the modern consumer. Speakers include Chair of the BIA Board, Ruth McKernan CBE, and Deborah O’Neil OBE, CEO of Novabiotics.
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.