CEO Update|Thursday 19 December 2019

With Boris Johnson back in Number 10 with a promise to “get Brexit done”, the BIA will continue to  work with government and industry partners to secure the UK’s position as a leading global hub for biotech – something the Conservatives promised in their General Election manifesto.

Certainty about Brexit is probably high on a lot of people’s Christmas lists and we now have a clear timetable to leave the EU on 31 January at 11pm UK time. Just this week Boris Johnson announced the addition of a new clause to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill which will rule out any extension to the transition period. This would mean the increased possibility of leaving in December 2020 without a free trade deal with the EU.

On no-deal medicines contignency planning, I understand that the UK government are immediately now making the necessary changes to stop their no deal plans coming into force on 31 January. We expect formal communication from the Department in the New Year.


I look forward to working with the new Government on implementing their campaign pledges, which include the creation of the Innovative Medicines Fund, expanding R&D tax credits and fulfilling the Prime Minister’s personal pledge of the ‘fastest ever increase’ in R&D spending. During the election campaign it was interesting to see the future of the NHS take centre stage, with debate about patient access to innovative medicines and the potential impact of new trade agreements on our healthcare system. There was also welcome continued cross-party consensus on the importance of raising both public and private R&D.

Influence is one of the three key missions of the BIA, and during the campaign, we made a call to the next Government in the form of a BIA biotech manifesto. The manifesto sets out the priorities of our sector and calls on the new Government to commit to increasing public and private investment in R&D, maintain a world-class medicines regulation post-Brexit and deliver rapid patient access to medicines. We will continue to work with the Government to ensure these priorities remain high on the political agenda.

The Conservative manifesto picked up on much of the content of our own manifesto and also the report we published earlier in the year, UK life sciences: Catalysing investment and growth. It’s great to see our consistent and persistent engagement with policy makers paying off.

We will be keeping an eye on the Queen’s Speech today and you can stay up to date with the big announcements and any comments on our Twitter feed. It is likely to be similar to the last Queen’s Speech in October, of which our analysis can be found here. We will be keeping a particularly close look-out for the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, commitments around science funding and post-Brexit regulation.

On Monday, the Prime Minister undertook a mini-reshuffle, filling posts left vacant by departing MPs. There are no changes at the Department of Health and Social Care, with both Matt Hancock and Baroness Blackwood remaining in post. Similarly, at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Andrea Leadsom and Nadhim Zahawi continue in their Ministerial roles as does the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid.

While we are looking at essentially the same Government line up going into the New Year, we have been promised a broader and potentially more radical overhaul in February. Speculation in the media suggests that plans are afoot to abolish several departments, merging their functions into other existing departments. Later on today, we will publish a blog with further analysis and a recap of the BIA’s approach to the General Election campaign.

We recommend that our members stay ready and follow previous advice as we leave the EU. Alongside the ABPI we held a Brexit Lead Network webinar which updates you on the latest Brexit news. You can listen to the recording here.

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming year. Firstly, in the second week of January, I will be attending the 38th JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. I have put together a webinar with my top tips which you can watch here. If you are attending JP Morgan, then please visit the Wuxi Global Forum on 14 January where I will be speaking. We have put together a list of the international events the BIA will be attending and supporting in the New Year, this will be added to as we move through 2020.

Towards the end of January, we have our Gala Dinner, and tickets are still available and can be purchased here. We will be having an afternoon event before the dinner ‘Developing a Strategy for China’, where we will explore the opportunities for UK biotech in China and we will be joined by the China President of AstraZeneca Leon Wang and other distinguished guests, please register here.

I’d like to finish my blog by wishing you all a Merry Christmas and happy New Year. Thank you for your support and I look forward to working with you in 2020.