CEO Update|Monday 17 February
Boris Johnson has now confirmed his new Cabinet in a process which started with the surprise departure of Sajid Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr Javid was replaced by Rishi Sunak and it will be interesting to see what direction the Treasury takes with him at the helm. For our sector, Matt Hancock remains in post as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Alok Sharma was appointed as the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
We also welcome new Health Minister, Helen Whately, who has the first walk-in digital tech-led depression clinic in the UK within her constituency of Faversham and Mid Kent. It was disappointing to hear that Baroness Blackwood, who has been a great champion for the life sciences, has resigned from her post as Minister of Innovation. We hope to see the Government appoint a new minister for our sector promptly, particularly with a number of important issues pending including Brexit. To find out about the other key ministerial appointments we have updated our guide to the Government which you can find here.
On 13 February the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill 2019-2020, which was announced in the Queen’s Speech in December, was introduced and presented to the House of Commons. The Bill is an enabling vehicle, designed to introduce targeted delegated powers in the fields of medicines, clinical trials and medical devices to update the existing regulatory frameworks in line with international and scientific standards following the UK exit from the EU, as well as to consolidate the enforcement provisions for medical devices. The BIA will be monitoring the Bill as it progresses through Parliament to ensure that it enables faster patient access to new, innovative medicines while supporting the growth of the UK’s world-leading life sciences sector.
The coronavirus has been named Covid-19 and continues to dominate national and international headlines. UK biotech companies are playing an important role in the efforts to limit the spread of the virus. The Telegraph had an interesting article about how Oxford Nanopore’s handheld DNA scanners are being used in China and is just one example of how British innovation saves lives.
It’s also inspiring to see how scientists around the world are working together to tackle the virus and the impressive speed in which the latest science is being shared globally. It’s an important reminder that the red tape imposed on researchers in both academia and industry by the Nagoya Protocol poses serious risks to public health. This article by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) explains these risks in more detail. The BIA continues to work with government to highlight these issues.
It was a pleasure to attend the opening of the new Novartis HQ in White City as they announced the UK as the global centre of a major new clinical trial to investigate the use of Inclisiran, a drug to improve cardiovascular outcomes. This follows the announcement earlier this year of a collaboration between Novartis and NHS England to bring this first-in-class cholesterol-lowering drug to patients.
It was fantastic to see so many of you at our Committee Summit last week. Our Advisory Committees are crucial mechanisms for addressing the most relevant issues facing bioscience companies. Our plenary discussion led by Guardian journalist, Gaby Hinsliff allowed BIA members to exchange views on the latest government announcements and discuss the implications of Brexit for the UK biotech sector.
There was a strong representation of UK biotech at the BIO Investor & CEO Conference in New York last week. It was great to see presentations from our members Evonetix, Enesi Pharma, e-therapeutics, Arjuna Therapeutics, and Mogrify. CEO of Mogrify, Darren Disley, sat down with Proactive during the conference and discussed the role of the BIA and explained Mogrify’s work, watch the interview here.
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.