CEO Update|Monday 09 March

The COVID 19 situation is moving fast. The falls on global markets alongside increased detection of new cases means that our sector should be preparing for significant global disruption to business through at least the first half of 2020. Last week the Government published a 28 page action plan to tackle the coronavirus, which is made up of four phases, contain, delay, research, and mitigate. The advice today is that the UK is remaining in the "containment" stage of its response following an emergency Cobra meeting, but we may see further guidance and disruption this week.

Through this period the BIA will: 

  • co-ordinate member engagement with national and international research and scale up efforts
  • ensure members in the medicine supply chain have clear communication with government
  • be a channel of communication for advice to business - especially from the Government and its agencies 

I have put together a separate blog which focuses on the coronavirus, from news regarding the latest research efforts to the effects on medicine supply, the blog will inform you of the sector’s response and provide guidance. Read it here

It was great to see so many of you join our latest Brexit webinar last week, where we discussed both the UK-EU and UK-US negotiating positions. The webinar contains some significant updates on our positions and is well worth a watch, so if you missed it you can find the recording here. We will also be updating our Brexit website to reflect these changes in the coming days.  

On a regulatory note we welcome the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announcement on reaching ‘100 Clinical Trial Applications authorised under the Combined Ways of Working (CWoW) pilot’ last week. Working closely with the Health Research Authority (HRA) and across the Devolved Administrations, they jointly developed a process to provide clinical trial sponsors with a single application route and a coordinated ethics and regulatory review leading to a single UK decision on a clinical trial. Sponsors can get a single decision in an average of 54 days under the CWoW scheme – an important benefit, thus helping new, innovative medicines reach UK patients faster.

Looking ahead, on Wednesday the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will deliver what could be a momentous Budget. It will be the first of Boris Johnson’s new interventionist administration and the first to be delivered by Britain outside the EU since 1973. The BIA has written to the Chancellor and made formal representations, calling for, among other things, refilling the Biomedical Catalyst, support for scaling businesses, and protection for SMEs in any reforms to R&D tax reliefs. Watch out for our analysis on Wednesday afternoon and you can get a full sector-focused brief and ask questions to our Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Martin Turner, on a special Budget webinar we will be running on Friday. Sign up here.

Sunday marked International Women’s Day and to mark the occasion, the BIA hosted the first Women in Biotech event of the year last Wednesday. It was fascinating to hear about Women Ahead of Their Time (WATT), a new not-for-profit organisation aimed at inspiring younger generations by showcasing stories of female professionals in their early stage careers in STEM. Big thanks to Bird&Bird for hosting us and to all of our stellar panel for their contributions. These events are always well attended and have fantastic speakers, so I do recommend signing up quickly to our next one in Oxford this June.

I look forward to seeing many of you at our regional events in Glasgow and Cambridge next week.


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.