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.
Since his appointment as Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association in 2012, Steve has led major BIA campaigns for, amongst other things, improved access to finance, the refilling of the Biomedical Catalyst, anti-microbial resistance and the opportunity the sector presents to generalist long term investors. Steve champions the adaptive pathway approach to the licensing of new drugs, the need for Early Access and is particularly proud of the working relationship the BIA has established with the UK’s leading medical research charities.
A founder member of United Life Sciences, a strategic partnership representing over 1000 life science and healthcare member companies across the UK and internationally, Steve attends the UK’s Ministerial Industry Strategy Group, and sits on The Royal Society's Science, Industry and Translation Committee.
Beyond the UK Steve is a member of EuropaBio’s Board and its National Association Council and is a founder member of the International Confederation of Biotech Associations. An expert and regular commentator on the sector in the media and at industry-leading conferences Steve has worked both in biotech (as Senior Director at Genzyme UK and Ireland) and at the highest levels of UK government (as Special Advisor to John Reid, MP, during his time in Tony Blair’s government) for over 15 years. Steve was awarded the OBE in January 2017.