CEO Update|Monday 24 August
Fantastic news last week from BIA member MSD as they announced plans to build a £1bn UK research hub in central London, which will strengthen the Kings Cross ‘knowledge quarter’ and build on the already existing world-class life sciences research base in the UK capital. MSD’s London Discovery Research Centre will carry out early-stage research in medicine discovery. This new centre will play a crucial part in expanding the UK’s science base and reinforcing the UK’s position as the third largest biotech cluster in the world.
The South East of England was highlighted as having the largest population of life sciences industry jobs in the latest annual Sector Statistics published by the Office for Life Sciences. The dataset is an important baseline for our industry and provides key information on sector employment.
COVID-19 trials - Letter from UK CMOs and NHS Medical Director
The UK's Chief Medical Officers and the NHS Medical Director distributed a letter on the subject of COVID-19 research and treatment trials, emphasising that the RECOVERY trial platform will continue to be supported as the national clinical trial platform for COVID-19 phase III therapeutics trials and will also be extended to include phase II trials. The expanded RECOVERY platform will form the principal vehicle for all publicly funded phase II studies. Candidate therapeutics for phase II trials will be identified by an independent and expert UK COVID-19 Therapeutic Advisory Panel (UKCTAP). More information can be found here. I was heartened to see that the CMOs of all the UK nations also stressed the “increasing need for research that was paused due to COVID-19 to restart. Other impacts on health have not gone away, and it is important that the research done in these areas is continued where possible. With this in mind it is vital that research delivery staff and clinical academics return from frontline and other duties and resume their research.” This has been something the BIA has repeatedly stressed in meeting with the leadership of the UK clinical trials ecosystem on behalf of many members.
COVID-19 infection survey
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is responsible for England’s largest COVID-19 infection survey, has announced an expansion of the survey over the next two months with the aim to test 150,000 people every fortnight. As part of this increase, the ONS survey will also encompass Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will allow stronger statistical confidence in ONS’ findings to establish community infection levels, which is becoming increasingly important with cases starting to rise in particular geographic areas. Alongside the expansion, the Government is providing a £2 million grant to the ZOE COVID-19 Symptom Study app, which gathers data from participants who regularly report on their health and symptoms and whether they have tested positive for the virus or not.
New National Institute for Health Protection announced
Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the establishment of a new body called the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) combining elements of Public Health England (PHE), with NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre. The new institute will be led by Dido Harding, with whom the BIA has already scheduled a meeting. We have seen the benefits of collaborating on innovation in COVID-19 testing between the public and private sectors in recent months, with the Testing Methods Sourcing Platform and cross-sector webinars. UK life sciences companies look forward to working with the new NIHP on its vital mission. The UK’s ground-breaking innovative companies are already working on COVID-19 solutions in partnership with the public sector – successfully embedding this culture for the long term will be key to the UK’s response to future threats and the NIHP’s long term success.
New Chair of the MHRA
Hot of the press: Stephen Lightfoot has been appointed as Chair of the MHRA. It was positive to see in Stephen’s remark that his ambition is to make the MHRA an enabler in the UK health system. I look forward to working with him and discussing the innovations coming down the life sciences pipeline at the BIA-MHRA Regulatory Conference 2020. Make sure to book your place, with key speakers including Lord Bethell, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Innovation) at the Department of Health and Social Care and Dr June Raine Chief Executive of the MHRA.
Opportunity at Innovate UK
Innovate UK is seeking a new Executive Chair to transition the agency from a grant funding body to an agency focused on transforming the UK’s innovation capacity and capability. The closing date for applications is 28 September 2020, find out more here. It would be great if the successful candidate had a strong understanding of our vital sector and I encourage members to consider applying for the role and share with their networks.
Digital supply chain funding call
Technology and manufacturing businesses can now apply for funding to develop innovative digital technologies that have the potential to transform supply chains; ensuring a more efficient, productive, flexible and resilient UK manufacturing sector. The competitions focus on feasibility studies and industrial research with a up to £1.5 million available for each individual project bid. Find out more and apply here.
MRC Experimental Medicine Panel
The Medical Research Council (MRC) has announced the latest development in its translational funding portfolio with the establishment of a new Experimental Medicine Panel. Through this new funding call, with an annual budget of >£10 million, the Experimental Medicine Panel will provide the dedicated and sustained support needed to drive our understanding of disease pathogenesis and enable the development of new targeted treatments. The Panel will meet twice a year to assess applications. The first funding call is open until 16 September 2020, with awards to be made in March 2021. Find out more here.
The BIA has a full schedule of events for the autumn in the pipeline – please look at our events page and I hope to see you at an event soon.
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.