CEO Update|Monday 27 July
Progress towards the development of COVID-19 vaccines continues as the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult has stepped up to increase the UK’s capacity and capability to manufacture successful COVID-19 vaccines.
The £100 million awarded by the Government will fund a Cell and Gene Therapy Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Braintree, which is due to become fully operational in December 2021. The centre complements the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) currently being built in Oxfordshire. It is important to have multiple facilities to build the manufacturing resilience needed to ensure the UK has long-term capacity to meet future pandemics. Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult will also be working alongside CDMOs to develop these new cell and gene therapy capabilities further.
This is another example of how UK industry has assisted in the global COVID-19 response. We’ve seen Oxford Biomedica and Cobra Biologics sign agreements with AstraZeneca to help manufacture the adenovirus vector-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate and on diagnostics, industry has enabled the development of Lighthouse Labs to increase testing capacity.
An additional £4.7 million has been awarded to develop workforce skills in advanced therapy and vaccine manufacturing. It’s heartening to see the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult being given additional resources to upskill the existing life sciences workforce and provide opportunities for those from more traditional manufacturing backgrounds to transfer into bioprocessing.
Cell and gene therapies are a transformative new category of medicines the full potential of which is only just beginning to emerge. It is testament to the strength of the UK life sciences sector, which has over 70 Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products companies working within it, that government has decided to invest money into this training scheme.
Biomedical Catalyst open for applications
I am pleased to see that the Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) opens for applications today. UK SMEs can now apply for a share of up to £30 million to develop innovative solutions to health and care challenges. The relaunch follows the BIA’s consistent campaigning for the funding competition, which is proven to leverage over £4 of private investment for every £1 of public money invested.
COVID-19 has thrown the importance of a vibrant and strong UK life sciences sector into sharp focus. The Biomedical Catalyst is a key part of government efforts to ensure the UK is resilient to future threats to public health, as well as supporting the development of new life-changing medical treatments, diagnostics and devices, and building an innovation-led economy for our future prosperity.
You can find details on how to apply and eligibility here. The competition closes at 11am Wednesday 07 October.
BIA lobbying pays off
With a no-deal end to the transition period looking ever more likely, we continue to work to ensure the best possible outcome for our sector. New secondary legislation laid before Parliament to make changes to our intellectual property laws contains a welcome U-turn by the Government on the SPC manufacturing waiver. The law will now only permit the making of SPC-protected drugs in the UK for export to countries outside the EU, whereas the Government’s proposed approach had been to permit export to EU Member States, which could have reduced our members’ IP rights in some of those countries. The BIA’s IP Advisory Committee made the case for this change directly to government officials, so it is great to see their efforts pay off. We’ll publish a blog in due course to provide more background to this work.
Talking of BIA lobbying successes, for many years now we’ve been calling for an update the eligible costs of R&D tax credit to include data and now the Government has published a consultation to do just that (after committing to do so in the Conservative Party’s manifesto). Thanks to the BIA’s Finance and Tax Advisory Committee for their determination to make this happen. They’ve already had a few meetings with Treasury officials to discuss the details and will be leading on our formal response to the consultation. If you’d like more information or wish to contribute to our engagement with Treasury please contact Martin Turner.
New benefit for BIA members
Last week the BIA and BioCentury hosted a joint webinar looking at the impact of COVID-19 on UK biotech, discussing the results of a recent BioCentury-BIA survey. I am delighted to say that we have formed a partnership with BioCentury which will enable BIA members to receive complimentary two-week access to BioCentury's Intelligence platform and BCIQ database, as well as 20% off a year subscription. Find out more here.
This Wednesday, Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) are holding a webinar looking at how UK companies are developing game-changing technologies in vaccine formulation, manufacture and delivery. The webinar will be led by Steve Bagshaw, who is the Vaccine Taskforce Supply Chain Lead. Sign up here.
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.