CEO Update|Monday 11 November 2019

Great news for NHS patients this morning as two cannabis-based medicines - Epidyolex and Sativex, developed by BIA member GW Pharmaceuticals, have been approved for use by the NHS in England. Both medicines were developed, grown, and manufactured in the UK, and it’s fantastic to see decades of risk-taking by the company pay off in the form of a clinically proven, safe and efficacious medicine being made available to patients. NHS Doctors will be able to prescribe Epidyolex for children with two types of severe epilepsy - Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome - which can cause multiple seizures a day. GW Pharmaceuticals is a British innovation success story which is leading the world and shows that cannabis-based medicines can (and should) reach the demanding standards of medicine regulators ensuring the best possible safety and efficacy for patients with complex needs around the world.

With the General Election campaign now underway, the BIA has been busy raising our sector’s priorities with the political parties which are slugging it out in the hope of forming the next administration. To help inform the debate, we have produced a Biotech Manifesto which sets out the key policy priorities for a thriving biotech sector that we want the next Government to adopt. We hope our members will raise these priorities with your local constituency candidates. In the manifesto, we call on the next Government to: commit to maintaining and increasing public and private investment in R&D; ensure world class medicines regulation in a post-Brexit UK; and ensure rapid patient access to medicines. As well as our manifesto, we have also produced a blog post which explains what the BIA is doing for members during the campaign. You can find it here.

One of the last announcements to be made public before the election fully commenced was a new independent report on UK research and Innovation  by Professor Sir Adrian Smith and Professor Graeme Reid. Their report proposes new funding streams and outlines what funding options the Government could pursue in the future. Please read our response to the review here. Sticking with science funding, five European industry associations are consulting on a proposal of creating a European Health Public-Private Partnership (PPP) under Horizon Europe. You can read the proposal and respond to their survey here.

Although we are all focussing on the 12 December General Election, we mustn’t forget that the next Brexit deadline of January 31 is also fast approaching. Our next Brexit webinar will take place next week (22 November), and will provide a staging post for the latest official advice on Brexit preparedness and an assessment of how things could develop after the election.  You can register here. Do visit our Brexit Portal where have uploaded a key piece of work – no-deal Brexit Q&A– which has been created in collaboration with the MHRA, ABPI, and the British Generic Manufacturers Association. Here you can find answers to questions on new product applications, centralised procedures, baseline submissions, pharmacovigilance and more.

AstraZeneca are increasing their R&D presence in China - last Thursday they announced three large-scale initiatives in Shanghai: a new Global R&D Centre; an Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovation Centre; and a joint investment fund with China International Capital Corporation Limited (CICC). The investment fund’s target size is $1bn, which will support domestic companies and partners including those based in the Wuxi International Life Science Innovation Campus. You may remember the announcement back in September that the BIA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Wuxi International Life-science Innovation Campus (I-Campus) and AstraZeneca in China, so we are in on the ground on this development. Against this backdrop I am looking forward to attending the 6th BioCentury-BayHelix China Healthcare Summit next week in Shanghai, where many BIA companies will be presenting and attending. During the event we are hosting a UK Biotech Track, as well as a reception at the Consulate General in Shanghai.

On sector funding, the latest report from the Scale Up Institute on how the UK is doing at growing firms to scale is out this week. We are watching closely how the ongoing process of the sale of Woodford stakes in UK life science companies is developing, which is attracting media comment. We continue to stress the diversification of investors into our sector in recent years, recently providing comment to Bloomberg which you can read here. I would welcome insight from members on their perspectives on fundraising this quarter.  

Once again, I am pleased to finish my blog with some good news. A new report produced by BioBeat indicates that more than 30% of the UK’s top female BioBusiness talent come from BIA member companies. Included in the ’50 Movers & Shakers in BioBusiness 2019’ is our newly elected Chair of the Board, Dr Ruth McKernan. I look forward to working with Ruth and all other newly elected Board members in the new year.

Looking ahead, I highly recommend coming along to our bioProcessUK conference. Liverpool is not just the home of two great football teams, it is a key UK medicines manufacturing hub providing quality jobs. We are offering all attendees afternoon tours to see some of the best manufacturing sites in the Liverpool area on 28 November. We will be visiting Allergan, AstraZeneca, Jaguar Land Rover and Seqirus. Register for the main event here, and you can register for the tours 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.