CEO Update|Monday 06 July

Cystic fibrosis patients to benefit from life-transforming treatment


It was great to see NHS England agree a deal with BIA member Vertex last week, to enable their new cystic fibrosis drug combination Kaftrio available to NHS patients. This is brilliant news for the cystic fibrosis community with nine in 10 patients set to benefit from this life-transforming medicine.


The speed of this deal will not only improve the health outcomes of many people with cystic fibrosis, but also sends a clear message to the global life sciences industry that the UK is a great place to develop, trial and launch innovative medicines.


The deal comes ahead of the medicine’s anticipated approval by the European Commission. The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recently adopted a positive opinion for Kaftrio, for the treatment of cystic fibrosis in patients aged 12 years and older, who have a specific mutation in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR).


UK Research and Development Roadmap published


The Government has published a UK Research and Development Roadmap that sets out a vision to attract global talent and cement the UK as a world-leading science superpower. 


It’s encouraging that the roadmap acknowledges not only the importance of leveraging private investment in R&D but also turning academic research into commercial success and societal impact. The roadmap also highlights the need to strengthen Innovate UK and increase the availability of scale-up capital, including unlocking pensions funds, to help achieve these ambitions.


The focus on building on the UK’s strengths in sectors like life sciences and boosting international collaboration is particularly welcome, as COVID-19 has shown these are essential to be able to effectively respond to the great challenges of our times. We look forward to continuing to engage with the Government as it takes up Boris Johnson’s mission to ‘build back bolder’.


The roadmap follows the Prime Minister’s speech on the economy where he highlighted that the UK is a world leader in life sciences and genomics and has some of the best pharmaceutical companies in the world. This week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver his July economic statement and we will be watching closely to see what implications this will have for our sector.


Developments in COVID-19 treatment


UK vaccine taskforce chair Kate Bingham, life sciences champion Sir John Bell, and vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert gave a good overview of developments in COVID-19 treatment and UK access to them during parliament’s Science and Technology Committee last week. The full transcript is here and well worth a read.


One promising treatment that has been making the headlines over the past week is Gilead’s remdesivir, the first COVID-19 treatment recommended for EU authorisation. The antiviral drug, once considered as a potential Ebola treatment, has been found to help people recover faster from the disease.


Remdesivir is just one of the 261 treatments in the pipeline, with innovation advancing at speed across the globe. Scottish biotech TC BioPharm has recently won approval to start trials of an innovative T-cell therapy which could be used to treat patients with COVID-19 by boosting their immune system. The trial will also provide vital insights into how COVID-19 interacts with the immune system.


Biomedical Catalyst 2020 Round 1


Following the announcement of the relaunched Biomedical Catalyst, we have updated our website with the latest details so that members are well prepared before the 27 July competition opening date. Find out more here.


Upcoming events


I am delighted to announce that the BIA will be working with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to deliver a joint conference this September, focussing on regulatory innovation. This will be a virtual event on 17 September, covering a wide range of crucial topics, as the UK comes to terms with a new ‘normal’ and the exit from the EU approaches. Find out more and register here.


Later this month we are hosting a joint webinar with BioCentury, where we will discuss the key findings from a recent BioCentury/BIA survey of UK biotechs. I will be speaking alongside Simone Fishburn, Ph.D., VP & Editor in Chief, of BioCentury. Register here.


On Thursday 09 July, the latest government/industry webinar is taking place and will cover the progress of the NHS Test & Trace Service and a procurement update from Pillars 3 and 4. Register here.


Charity partnership of the year


The BIA works with one chosen UK charity each year: connecting them with the influential thought leaders within our strong ecosystem of corporate businesses, networks, academia and associates. Applications for our Charity Partnership of the Year 2021 close this month, we have extended the deadline to 17 July. Find out more and apply here.



Steve Bates

Chief Executive Officer


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.