CEO Update|Monday 07 October 2019

With weeks to go until the 31 Oct Brexit deadline, this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his latest Brexit proposals, focussed on alternative solutions to the Irish border question. Details remain  scant on what this would mean for our sector but it’s clear it has not been welcomed by businesses in Northern Ireland or received without serious question in Dublin and across the EU.

Our Brexit readiness work continues in this rapidly evolving context. On Thursday we held a networking lunch in Oxford, there was a similar event in Cambridge and our latest BIA Brexit briefing webinar (recorded last Friday) on recent developments is here. As the uncertainty continues, we are delivering free weekly  webinars on  Fridays, the next of which will take place on 11 October, until a final webinar on 29 October. Our annual Bioscience Forum next week is our key autumn get-together and alongside the main event we are adding additional free Brexit sessions, do sign up here.


Most questions from members are about what this means for their teams, for moving goods across new customs borders and for the government-procured process for no- deal medicines supply. Many of you continue to tell us that you believe a further delay to Brexit at the end of this month is the most likely outcome.


On medicines supply in the event of no-deal Brexit, stand by for more information on the process for booking the government-procured capacity in the coming days, which we’ll share  with you as we have it. Last week the National Audit Office (NAO) reported on  government plans so far and stated that there are still risks to medicines supply and that  additional freight capacity may not be fully available until the end of November, a month after the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. Evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on this made news over the weekend.


At our Oxford event we also published the BIA Q3 Financing update which was released last Thursday. UK biotech companies are continuing to raise significant new funds despite investment across all sectors slowing. The report shows that a total of £869m has been raised by UK-based biotech companies for the year  to 31 August. Not every year can be a record-breaker for UK biotech and in this quarter, Brexit and global uncertainty are factors at the forefront of investors’ minds. The Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday on which I commented, of a dedicated life sciences fund to support scaling companies shows that the Government understands the challenge. The Government must also seek to strengthen the sector at every stage of the innovation pipeline by refilling the Biomedical Catalyst, which has been a key Innovate UK scheme crowding-in private sector investment to emerging companies. Against this backdrop it’s great to see that in Scotland, BIA member Ingenza Ltd has supported a funding round led by Kelvin Capital which has allowed Scottish biotech business ProFactor Pharma Ltd (PFP) to secure new investment of £2m. The funding will go towards transforming the treatment of Haemophilia A.


I would like to take this time to urge you all to participate in a survey created by the Academy of Medical Sciences, which is exploring models for a new scheme that would support mobility, permeability and innovation between academia, industry and the NHS. You can find the survey here.  Please note that the survey closes on Sunday 13 October at 5pm.


Application for the 2020 Cohort for the BIA MAC Leadership Programme (LeaP)  is now open. LeaP was established in 2017 to develop next-generation leaders, through cross-sector learning and by developing a network with peers to share best practice. Currently 44 participants from 23 member companies are benefitting from LeaP, which is is free to BIA members with a UK bioprocessing facility. If you would like to hear more, please contact Netty England


Finally, some funding news: Innovate UK has today launched a £5.4 million competition for projects that apply whole-genome sequencing to the analysis of cancer. This funding is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and it’s great to see the ISCF being used to further the UK’s global competitive advantage in genomics. The deadline is 22 January 2020 – apply here.


Don’t forget, the BIA Board election is now live. Each BIA member company has a vote, which has been emailed to our primary contact in each member. Most have chosen to vote via the link here. (Please remember that only one Ballot Paper may be completed by each member organisation and that only fully paid up Corporate, Associate and Network members are eligible to vote.) There are nine candidates standing for election to the Board as Corporate members and five candidates standing for election to the Board as Other members. Profiles of all the candidates can be found here. Please adhere to the instructions carefully so that your vote counts and your vote must reach the BIA by 5.00 pm on 15 October 2019.