CEO Update|Monday 25 November 2019

It’s party manifesto season in the General Election!

Over the weekend Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that if re-elected, the Conservatives would launch a £500m ‘Innovative Medicines Fund’ giving NHS patients quicker access to cutting-edge medicines, ensuring the UK remains a fantastic destination to develop and launch new medicines. The new fund replaces the £340 million Cancer Drugs Fund, which is due to end next year and will enable new drugs for Alzheimer’s, motor neurone, and Parkinson’s disease to be made available to patients faster. In addition to this, the Tories have pledged to put an extra £83m a year into dementia research over the next decade and to unlock long-term capital in pension funds to invest in and commercialise UK scientific discoveries to create a vibrant science-based economy post-Brexit.

Last week we welcomed Labour’s commitment to support innovation, increase patient access to medicines and boost the number of pharmaceutical jobs in the UK. The pledge that, ‘under a Labour government the NHS will be at the forefront of the development of genomics and cell therapies so that patients can benefit from new treatments for cancer and dementia, whilst ensuring the UK continues to lead in medical developments’ was also good news. However, the party’s plans to phase out the R&D tax credit scheme for large companies will remove a powerful incentive for them to invest in R&D in the UK, especially when packaged with several other of the broader business policies proposed.  

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto is generally positive for the biotech sector. It includes commitments on increasing R&D as a percentage of GDP to 3%, a goal of doubling of innovation spending across the country and creating a vibrant landscape for SMEs.

We will be putting out our analysis of all the manifestos once the full set has been published, so keep an eye out on our website and twitter.

Last Friday we hosted our Brexit Briefing Webinar which updates ahead of the possible January 31 next no-deal deadline, you can watch all of our Brexit webinars here.

It was good to see that Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC), have received £1.2 million from Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. This money will provide accommodation for growing cell and gene therapy companies. Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst is home to the largest cluster of cell and gene therapy companies in Europe. Occupiers of the SBC campus have raised almost £1bn of investment, of which around 60% has been invested into cell and gene therapy companies. 

Last week GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and SBC hosted ‘BioBeat19’, championing women leaders from across the sector. It was inspiring to hear leading women on cell and gene therapy, functional genetics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The need for the UK to remain globally competitive was emphasised.

On that note, I spent last week in Shanghai attending the 6th Biocentury Bayhelix China Healthcare Summit hearing from the world’s leaders in the innovation ecosystem. I was delighted to see six of our members presenting in the UK and Global Biotech Tracks. You can find out more about our recent involvement with China here.

Back in London, huge congratulations to all our members who were recognised in the European Lifestars Awards. An interesting report released last week – Biocity’s UK Life Science Start-Up Report, which collects, analyses and interprets data on life science start-ups in the UK over the past five years. The report highlights an unprecedented period of growth for life sciences across the UK. There has been a 50% increase in the number of companies and a four-fold increase in investment going into them, which will likely result in an increase in the demand for space, which makes the investment going into places like the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst all the more vital.

I look forward to seeing you at our bioProcessUK conference this Tuesday.