CEO Update|Monday 10 February

You’ll be aware that the global battle against the coronavirus is well underway and there is important detail for member companies in this blog about our sector’s response to the outbreak.

Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock has raised the incidence or transmission of novel coronavirus to constitute a serious and imminent threat to public health, enabling new measures to delay and prevent further transmission of the virus. A diagnostic test for the novel coronavirus, rapidly developed by Public Health England, begins testing today. Over the course of the coming weeks the capacity for testing will be raised to 12 laboratories across the UK.

A global research and innovation forum which will coordinate key players including scientists, public health agencies, health ministers and health funders will take place from tomorrow in Geneva. It is being convened by the WHO and will help to fast-track the development and evaluation of diagnostic tests and establish mechanisms for affordable access for vulnerable populations.

Our sector will play its part in the continued global effort to tackle the coronavirus. Last week we saw Benevolent AI in The Lancet, explaining how machine learning will help to identify a potential treatment for 2019-nCoV. It’s also clear that the coronavirus news is impacting stock markets. It was great to see the Wellcome Trust share a statement which calls on researchers, journals, and funders to ensure research findings and data relevant to the coronavirus outbreak be shared rapidly and openly, to inform the public health response and help save lives.

I am keen to know of other work, especially that of UK SMEs, which may be relevant, which we will share with the Government and other agencies. You can keep up-to-date with coronavirus announcements on the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) twitter feed. We are working with the Department to ensure our sector’s expertise and capacity is available to support the global effort.  


Last Friday DHSC ran a webinar to brief companies in the medicines supply chain on coronavirus. Companies have been asked to conduct a full risk assessment of supply chains, including where suppliers source their components. The Department noted it may not be immediately obvious that China is a source.

Some of you may still hold Brexit stockpiles and are now being asked to retain these as a precaution until more information can be given regarding individual products, due to the rapidly changing picture. In China, the nature and spread of the disease combined with the unclear pace of the industrial re-start after the Chinese New Year holiday, means the picture for key global supply chain outputs needed for our sector is uncertain. Finally, in terms of demand management, DHSC advised careful monitoring of orders, to see if there are unusual patterns of demand.


The Government’s planned approach to the future negotiations with the EU became clear last week with Boris Johnson’s keynote speech and a parliamentary statement. The Written Ministerial Statement by the International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss sets out the UK’s global trade ambitions for all future free trade agreements.


My analysis of the Prime Minister’s statement is here and the Written Ministerial Statement is here. Reading through the statement it appears that there may be opportunities for our sector in regard to intellectual property. There was also mention of future tariff arrangements. The BIA has asked for the past three years that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Pharmaceuticals Tariff Elimination Agreement be updated, which still hasn’t come to pass. If the agreement isn’t updated, innovative pharmaceutical products manufactured in the UK could be at risk of being subject to tariffs in the years ahead. More of my thoughts on this announcement can be found in our press statement here.


There is strong press speculation that Boris Johnson plans to reshuffle the Government later this week. We will update members on appointments to the key departments for our sector  in the next Newscast.


An update from MSD, which has announced the intention to spin off women’s health, legacy brands, and biosimilar franchises into a new, publicly traded company. This separate company will unleash potential in women’s health and other areas, while MSD will focus on oncology, vaccines, hospital, and animal health. The BIA looks forward to hearing more about MSD’s new ventures.


Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Academy of Medical Science’s  Future Leaders in Innovation, Enterprise and Research (FLIER) programme launch. The programme brings together future leaders from academia, the NHS, industry and policy organisations for a two-year cross-sector learning experience.


A delegation of BIA members is in New York attending BIO’s CEO & Investor Conference. This is a great opportunity for our members to meet with institutional investors, industry analysts, and senior biotechnology executives, in one location. Member companies attending include Enesi Pharma, Mogrify, Scancell, e-therapeutics, Arjuna Therapeutics, OxStem, and Evonetix.


I am looking forward to our Committee Summit on Wednesday; the BIA’s eight advisory committees are crucial mechanisms for highlighting the most relevant issues facing biotech and life sciences companies, and I look forward to reflecting on 2019 and sharing plans for 2020.



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.