CEO Update|Monday 29 June
Thank you to all members who made last week’s Life Science Leadership Summit such a success. It was fantastic to get positive feedback on our pioneering virtual conference and to hear such inspiring contributions from a range of sector leaders, as well as meeting vibrant innovative biotech companies during the Innovation Showcase.
COVID-19 vaccine developments
The race to produce a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 continues as human trials of the mRNA vaccine candidate developed by Imperial College London kicked off last week. The trial will see 300 volunteers receive the vaccine, which will be followed by a larger trial this autumn involving 6,000 people.
Also advancing at speed is Oxford’s adenovirus vector vaccine, human trials of which have launched across the globe. On manufacturing, last week Symbiosis Pharmaceutical Services signed a supply agreement with AstraZeneca for sterile manufacture of the vaccine. Under the agreement, Symbiosis will provide AstraZeneca fast-track access to sterile vaccine drug product manufacturing capacity for clinical trials. I am delighted to see that Scotland’s world-leading life sciences sector is working with partners across the globe to combat the pandemic.
New insights into link between genetics and COVID-19 susceptibility
A great piece of scientific research by PrecisionLife was published last week providing clues as to why people vary so much in their susceptibility to COVID-19. Using their unique Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform, PrecisionLife found 68 genes associated with the risk of developing severe COVID-19. This new information will inform the development of biomarker driven tests, targeted shielding and new therapeutic strategies. You can read the pre-print paper here.
UK talent joins Illumina Accelerator in Cambridge
Illumina has selected seven early-stage companies to join the first global cohort of Illumina Accelerator, with three based in the UK. Congratulations to Alchemab Therapeutics, Neurolytic Healthcare, and Tailor Bio. The Accelerator will provide the selected start-ups with access to seed investment, and Illumina sequencing systems and reagents, as well as business guidance, genomics expertise, and fully operational lab space adjacent to Illumina’s campus in Cambridge.
National Testing Programme
During the latest government-industry webinar, it was promising to hear about the development of Pillars 1 & 2 of the National Testing Programme. On Pillar 1 we learned that COVID-19 testing supplies are now very secure and that antibody testing is developing at pace. On Pillar 2 we heard that test sites are increasing, mobile units are doubling and that the priority for June is to have a 24-hour turnaround of tests.
We also heard more detail about the COVID-19 National DiagnOstic Research and Evaluation Platform (CONDOR), which will create a single national route for evaluating new diagnostic tests in hospitals and in community healthcare settings. Slides from the webinar can be found here.
We continue to seek novel solutions to help increase COVID-19 testing methods on our Testing Methods Platform. From thinking of alternatives to swabs for sampling, to finding ways of reducing the environmental impact of testing, take a look at the challenges here.
New £200 million package to help innovative businesses
Over the weekend a £200 million package delivered through Innovate UK was unveiled to help companies recovering from the impact of COVID-19 keep their cutting-edge projects and ideas alive. The Sustainable Innovation Fund has opened for applications today and invites UK registered businesses to apply for a share of up to £55 million for new projects focusing on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19. Find out more and apply here. Deadline is Wednesday 29 July.
Life Sciences Recovery Roadmap
Together with the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI), British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) and the British In Vitro Diagnostic Association (BIVDA) we have put out a call to action on the UK life sciences industry’s commitment to fighting COVID-19. The Life Sciences Recovery Roadmap sets out how the sector can work with the Government and the NHS to put life sciences at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic and support the NHS in getting cutting-edge healthcare to patients. Find out more here.
COVID-19 preclinical drug development database
I encourage researchers who are working on early-stage UK COVID-19 projects to get involved with the new COVID-19 database for preclinical therapies created by the Academy of Medical Sciences. The platform is designed to help researchers identify collaborations, share expertise, materials and methods, avoid duplicating effort and prioritise the most promising research.
Upcoming supply chain workshops
KTN and Innovate UK are hosting a series of online workshops to explore the opportunities for using digital solutions to improve and re-engineer existing manufacturing supply chains, design new supply chain solutions, and help collaborators develop their applications for the Manufacturing Made Smarter supply chain competition. One workshop that may be of specific interest to our members is the Pharma session on 10 July, which will look at supply chain challenges and opportunities for supply chain design, integration, and optimisation within the pharmaceutical sector. Find out more and register here.
The UCL Translational Research Office in partnership with the Institute of Healthcare Engineering and UCLH BRC have a new series of COVID-19 TIN (Therapeutic Innovation Networks) seminars, which will highlight UCL and partner Biomedical Research Centre's contribution to the national effort in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers and clinicians at any career stage (PhD to PIs) wanting to learn about best practices in medical device translation, as well as the support available at UCL, are encouraged to attend. Find out more here.
BIA Guide to the Government
We have updated our guide to the Government for BIA members which highlights key ministerial appointments for our sector. You can find it here.
Finally, as the Government begins to set out its domestic policy agenda beyond the immediate crisis, I was heartened to see that Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove views our sector as being of key importance to future of the UKs economic wellbeing. I hope we hear more on this from the Prime Minister in his keynote speech tomorrow.
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.