CEO Update|Monday 22 June

Good investment picture for UK Biotech sector

I’m delighted that new data published today by the BIA and Clarivate reveal that the UK biotech sector raised £585million from March to May 2020. A total of £894m has now been raised from all sources in the first half of 2020, surpassing the £831m raised in the same period in 2018, which was a record-breaking year.

While no IPOs have been registered, venture capital and follow-on financing during this period came in at £348m and £237m respectively, confounding expectations that the COVID-19 pandemic would severely affect investments over this period.

We are in a new investment landscape, with previously profitable industries struggling with the impacts of COVID-19. For domestic pension providers and investors, there is a clear opportunity to seize this moment and put their funds on positive growth tracks by investing in UK biotech, which in the past has been under-ventured in comparison to the US and China.

There is a clear message to the investor community, investing early with innovative life sciences companies can lead to significant upside. To read the full report please follow this link.

The Babraham Research Campus has recently released an impact report, which shows the benefits and outputs from the  significant taxpayer investment into the Babraham Research Campus; evidencing the overall economic, social and scientific contribution the Campus makes to the UK economy.

Further good funding news continues with BIA member Epidarex Capital announcing that it has closed its latest fundraising at £102.1 million. The Fund will build new life science companies based on world-class research and from emerging hubs across the UK, including spinouts from highly regarded universities. The new Fund has been cornerstoned by the British Business Bank via a £50 million commitment from its Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF) programme for early stage venture capital.

I enjoyed hearing more from Sinclair Dunlop, Managing Partner at Epidarex, when he presented at our Life Sciences Leadership Summit, a three-day virtual event for BIA corporate members and investors and followed this up with a fascinating conversation with Kate Bingham, Chair of the Government Vaccine Taskforce. I am also looking forward to my conversation with Michelle McMurry Heath, Chair of BIO, and hearing discussions on a whole range of strategic issues affecting biotech and life sciences companies, including financing during and post COVID-19. For more information please contact Jane Wall

Government announcements on tracing app

On Friday it was announced that the UK’s COVID-19 alert level had dropped from four to three, which will lead to a gradual relaxation of government restrictions. This was in the wake of news that the Government was halting plans to proceed with its COVID-19 tracing app and was shifting to an app based on technology by Apple and Google. The Government sees this is as an opportunity to bring together the functionality required to carry out contact tracing, but also making it easy to order tests, and access proactive advice and guidance to aid self-isolation. I expect further developments on this in the coming weeks.

New government scheme for antimicrobial resistance

The Government has announced a new scheme to incentivise the development of new antibiotics. Antimicrobial resistance still represents one of the biggest threats to modern medicine, however their development is challenging. Antibiotics are not like other medicines, because of the need to avoid developing resistance by not using them until absolutely necessary, which makes them very difficult to make commercially viable.  

In the new subscription-style model, the NHS will agree to pay upfront to access new antibiotics based on their value to the NHS, rather than the volume of sales. This scheme is a world first and will hopefully pave the way for new antibiotics. The BIA supported a similar scheme in 2015, signing up to an open letter to the then Prime Minister calling for action to make the development of antibiotics commercially attractive. I am pleased to see that this work has paid off with the announcement of this new scheme.

Brexit – Industry call for medicines deal in EU-UK negotiations

After the UK and EU leaders agreed that ‘new momentum’ was required in the negotiations to deliver a future EU-UK relationship, the European pharmaceutical and biotech industry associations issued a joint letter on 18 June calling on the presidents of the European Commission, Council and European Parliament, as well as Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier “to prioritise health and patients’ access to medicines over larger political considerations”. There are only 6 months until the end of the transition period in December 2020, so it is crucial to secure a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) to minimise delays in products reaching patients, similar to existing agreements with many third countries, covering batch and import testing by manufacturers and Official Medicines Control Laboratories (OMCLs) as well as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) inspections and CE-marking of medical devices. It’s worth noting that such requests on UK-EU cooperation in medicines regulation have been included in Annex 5-D of the draft UK-EU Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, published on 19 May.

New rules to protect British firms fighting COVID-19

Today, the Government announced new measures designed to protect British businesses that are central to the COVID-19 pandemic response from foreign takeovers. Business Secretary Alok Sharma plans to make changes to the 2002 Enterprise Act allowing government to intervene if companies working on the pandemic, including those working on vaccines, become the target of a takeover. We will continue to monitor this story as it develops.

Vax-Hub Feasibility Studies Call

Members of the Vax-Hub Users Group are invited to submit proposals for funding to support feasibility studies.  Funding of between £75,000 and £100,000 per project is available. Projects are expected to focus on research and development studies that lie within preparedness, technology readiness, rapid response activity or that draw on existing insights to test and validate solutions. Find out more and apply here, application deadline is 27 July.

Latest government/industry webinar

On Wednesday 24 June, the latest government/industry webinar is taking place and will cover Regulation, Research, and the National Testing Programme, with an update from Pillars 1 and 2. Register 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.