CEO Update|Monday 24 February

Over the weekend we have seen a rise in the number of cases of Coronavirus, particularly in Italy and South Korea, leading to more disruption to travel and closure of borders. We are now hearing that there have been disruptions to India’s pharmaceutical sector, India is a key player in the export of pharmaceuticals and relies on China for 70% of its raw ingredients. The BIA is continuing to work with innovative organisations across the UK to facilitate the development and scale-up of vaccines.

A week after the Cabinet reshuffle, details of the new ministers’ roles are emerging. The role of Minister for Universities and Science, previously held by Chris Skidmore has been split into two, with Michelle Donelan responsible for universities and Amanda Solloway covering science, although we understand that her role is not finalised. We look forward to working with the two ministers in the coming months on important issues facing our sector. There is currently no word on who is replacing Baroness Blackwood in the Health department. Our latest guide to the Government can be found here and we will continue to update this document with any new information and appointments.

Last week the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy announced a £10 million scheme to give leading UK researchers and businesses the chance to work together to develop treatments for people with  life-threatening conditions. The BIA has worked with UKRI to develop the Innovation Scholars secondment programme which aims to create flexibility and mobility across sectors.

The UKRI Innovation Scholars programme invites applications for individuals from any discipline to spend up to 36 months (full or part time) on secondment to enhance the individual’s skills and career development whilst benefiting the organisations involved. Proposals can come from any discipline but either the seconding or host organisation must be a business within the biomedical sciences sector (such as pharmaceutical, biotech, devices, biomedical engineering or diagnostics). If you would like more information about the requirements for this competition, do contact and if you need help to find support or a project partner, please contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

The Government has also announced that six UK locations have been awarded the prestigious designation of Life Sciences Opportunity Zones (LSOZ). Congratulations to BIA members, Stevenage Advanced Therapies Campus, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, and Discovery Park Kent which are part of the six zones. The Government will support the life sciences parks by working with the zones to attract investment from national and international businesses.

An innovation case study by the MHRA was published last week looking at the application for approval of a flu vaccine by Sanofi. The vaccine, designed to be effective in the over-65 age group, was approved by the MHRA in a short timescale. This is a very positive case-study which demonstrates that through close collaboration between a company and the regulator, a process that usually takes 12 months can be completed in seven. 

It’s been another positive week in regard to awards for BIA members. Congratulations to Healx for receiving the Company Award for Innovation at EURODIS’ Black Pearl Awards. The award recognises Healx’s integration of Artificial Intelligence into the discovery of drugs for rare diseases. Healx has also been shortlisted in the 2020 Business Weekly Awards, along with Evonetix, best of luck to both.

I am looking forward to hosting a roundtable this Thursday in Northern Ireland to discuss the opportunities and potential issues currently facing innovative life sciences organisations there. The Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI) is hosting a great networking event on the evening of 26 February, which I would encourage you to attend. To find out more and to register, please follow this link. I am also pleased to announce that the BIA will be hosting a Brexit Briefing Webinar next week to discuss the UK-EU negotiations and explore what this will mean for biotech. You can sign up 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.