CEO Update|Monday 20 January
After a week of big UK announcements at JP Morgan in San Francisco, I am delighted that the positive momentum for our sector will be sustained with the release of our annual biotech financing report later this week. I look forward to celebrating the report’s findings and our sector’s successes at the premier bioscience networking event of the year, the BIA annual Gala Dinner.
The JP Morgan conference kicked off with an important announcement from Novartis and NHS England, which plan to collaborate to tackle the burden of cardiovascular disease in the UK by bringing a novel cholesterol lowering drug, Inclisiran, to patients with an innovative population-based trial approach. It is clear that global players continue to see the UK as their destination of choice for innovation. The UK Life Sciences Industrial Strategy update released last week highlights the huge progress the sector is making in a number of different areas and shows the Government is committed to our sector.
There was a great turnout at the UK reception, co-hosted by the BIA in San Francisco, to hear from NHS England Chairman, Lord Prior and which showcased our sector’s innovative work. It was an honour to speak at the event which the BIA and Wuxi Global Forum co-hosted, ‘Advancing Breakthroughs for Patients’. The conference reminded me of the importance of our international connections, and we have an excellent free event this week preceding our Gala Dinner which will be essential if you are thinking about expanding into China. ‘Developing a Strategy for China’ has an excellent line up of speakers who aim to inspire and assist your developments in Asia.
I was pleased to see that the headlines weren’t limited to San Francisco, with the release of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult’s clinical trials database, which showed that the UK accounts for over 12% of global cell and gene therapy clinical trials. The UK is at the forefront of Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs) - last year we released a report with the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) on the UK’s ATMP landscape, which you can read here. It is fantastic to see that the UK and NHS are providing the right environment to allow this industry to grow and be recognised internationally.
Also last week, the Antimicrobial Resistance Industrial Alliance released a report looking at the progress our sector has made in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, as the WHO called on our sector to do more in this area. The report reveals the scale of investment into AMR-related R&D by pharma companies and creates recommendations on how late-stage drug R&D can be improved.
We’ve also followed the parliamentary debate on medicines regulation and the Withdrawal Bill closely in recent days, (especially the specific EMA-focused amendments). The Government told the House of Lords that they have a particular ambition to remain active in the European Medicines Agency, subject to the forthcoming negotiation, in line with the political declaration Boris Johnson agreed last year. Our sector looks forward to full clarity on the Government’s negotiating position being formally published as soon as possible.
Of course, the Northern Ireland protocol, already agreed by the EU and UK, foresees a continued role for the UK’s MHRA in the European Medicines Regulation system, so that drugs for at least some NHS patients within the United Kingdom will continue to be regulated by the EMA, which suggests a deal in this area is politically possible for both sides to the benefit of patients. We are now urgently seeking technical-level discussion on how this protocol will work in practice for medicines as 11 months is an extremely short period of time to implement any changes needed to medicines supply, as our extensive no-deal planning in the last three years has already demonstrated.
Looking at the week ahead, we will be launching our finance report on Wednesday 22 January, which will reveal our sector’s financings over the past year. It is an excellent piece of work which has been created with Informa Pharma Intelligence, with contributions from BIA members, so keep an eye on our Twitter. On Thursday I am looking forward to our China afternoon session before our flagship Gala Dinner in the evening. I look forward to seeing you there.
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.