The World Health Organisation is today convening its first expert advisory committee on developing global standards for the governance and oversight of human genome editing. The aim of the two-day meeting, in Geneva, is to examine the scientific, ethical, social and legal challenges of gene-editing and create guidelines and standards for it.
The meeting follows a call last week by some 16 leading scientists from 7 countries: USA; China; Canada; France; Germany; Italy and New Zealand for a global moratorium on heritable genome editing.
I attended and participated in the inaugural WuXi Healthcare Forum in Shanghai in March 2019, enabling me to gain a better insight into some of the key trends occurring in innovative life science in China today. Here are a few thoughts that I came away with.
In the last two years China has made a concerted attempt to, and has delivered, fundamental changes to key aspects of its human healthcare market as part of a broader Government push to improve healthcare for the nation and become a leader in biotechnology. They fall into four areas regulation, reimbursement, talent and capital.
I spent last week at the inaugural WuXi Healthcare Forum in Shanghai, and it proved to be a hugely insightful week, with over 2000 global leaders gathered. I spoke on a panel entitled ‘New Era, Golden Opportunities’ where leaders from China and the UK explored how key stakeholders are redefining the innovation narrative – opening up a new era of opportunities and connecting the global life sciences ecosystem. I also attended the British Consulate-General/BioIndustry Association official reception hosted by John Edwards, HM Consul General in Shanghai and Kevin Holland, Minister Counsellor of Life Sciences and Healthcare at the British Embassy in Beijing. You can read a blog on my thoughts from the forum and the other life sciences developments in China here. The UK’s China life sciences tea
Fantastic member news came out this morning – Nighstar Therapeutics (who feature in our Cell and Gene Therapies Explainer) have reached an agreement to be acquired by Biogen Switzerland Holdings for $877 million. Nightstar was founded and built by BIA member Syncona Ltd, an industry leader focussed on building and funding global life science leaders. This valuation represents a 4.5X multiple on Syncona’s initial investment in Nightstar and is a resounding endorsement of Syncona’s business model, demonstrating the fantastic returns obtainable through long-term commitment to companies. You can read more about this great news here.
In my first blog in this series, I discussed how the Spending Review (SR) would have received a whole lot more attention in normal political times than what it has so far. BIA is working hard to change that. Two weeks ago, we brought together a stellar panel in front of our whole membership to discuss what the life sciences sector can expect from the SR and get our members’ feedback on BIA’s emerging key messages.
A key part of the BIA’s work on the Spending Review (SR) is engaging parliamentarians, who have a role in scrutinising and approving the Government’s decisions. To start this process, two weeks ago we teamed up with partner organisations across the life sciences sector to organise an event in the House of Commons – “Keeping the UK a world leader in medical research: the need for cross-government coordination”.
When Brexit seemingly takes up an ever-increasing amount of time and resources, it’s important (and perhaps even – dare I say it – refreshing) to remember there are other matters of great concern for the life sciences sector.
One of those matters is this year’s Spending Review (SR)– the process by which the Government decides how much each government department will spend within a given period. This has a major impact on our sector as public funding bodies, such as UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), its Councils and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), are funded through government departments.
I hope this week that you have been heartened by the news that the first child has been given pioneering CAR-T cancer therapy on the NHS. We also saw announced the death of Dr Stewart Adams, the 95 year old Boots scientist who pioneered the painkiller ibuprofen in the East Midlands in the late 1950s and early 1960s (by curing his own hangover, no less). As Professor Kevin Shakesheff, from the University of Nottingham, said "He is remembered for his successes in creating one of the most important painkillers in the world but, as with many inspirational people, he had to bounce back from failures in earlier clinical trials before he and his team created ibuprofen.
"Epidemic"; "crisis"; "timebomb"; these are the dramatic terms used to describe the impact opioids continue to have on society. Evolving issues are sparking increasing concern for those involved in the development, manufacture and supply of prescription drugs, including their insurers.
The UK is a world-class life sciences cluster and the BIA is proud to celebrate its successes and champion its strengths. On 24 January we did just that, with an event to launch our latest biotech financing report and showcase four of the UK’s strategic technology strengths to investors.
First, the report. We were delighted to publish Confident capital: backing UK biotech, which shows that 2018 was a record-breaking year for biotech fundraising, with a total of over £2.2bn invested into UK-based biotech companies. That’s £1bn more than in 2017 and includes a doubling of venture investment in private companies. It also means that the UK accounts for over 40% of all European biotech investment.