Following last week’s announcement of the 2014 winner of the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES), co-organised by the BBSRC and the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Engineering at the University of Nottingham, previous winner Ajoeb Baridi describes how the competition kick-started his journey as a bio-entrepreneur, including a ticket to the BIA Gala Dinner!

The Biotechnology YES is an exceptional national competition that trains young researchers to become passionate bio-entrepreneurs, well-versed in the arts of entrepreneurship. The experience of winning the Biotechnology YES finals in London with my team Calvitium Solutions, a cosmeceutical start-up, has been key for kick-starting my journey as a very active early stage bio-entrepreneur.

BiotechYES_winningpic

Finals of Biotechnology YES 2012, London.

In 2012 I joined a team of highly motivated life science PhD students, from different departments of Cambridge University, entering the Biotechnology YES competition (377 competitors, 82 teams, five UK regional finals). Aside from a handful of management, business courses and industry placements, most of us were pure blue sky researchers with limited entrepreneurship experience. However the intense pressure of the Biotechnology YES programme to develop a biotech/pharma company, which presented innovative new technology to address a specific market need, soon proved to be more challenging and forced us to venture out of our science comfort zone.

We received outstanding support and mentoring from many great institutions, including: Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC); GlaxoSmithKline; SROne; Index Ventures; Cambridge Enterprise; the Wellcome Trust; and courses/mentoring at the Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS – Prof Shai Vyakarnam, Simon Stockley). Wining the Biotechnology YES competition with Calvitium Solutions resulted in great publicity, as well as the opportunity to present at the Rice University World Business Plan Competition in the US, One Start competition and a guest attendance at the eventful BIA Annual Gala Dinner at the London Natural History Museum.

BiotechYES_ricepic

Calvitium Pitch at Rice Business Plan Competition, Houston

Due to the different stages of team members’ PhD phases and subsequent newly accepted postdoc positions, we decided to retire Calvitium Solutions to be potentially revived in the near future. In the meantime, this experience had immersed me in the vibrant Cambridge entrepreneurial ecosystem and exposed me to numerous national and international entrepreneurial initiatives and competitions, such as Cambridge University Entrepreneurs, Arab Innovation Network, Enterprisers and the Merck Innovation Cup.

In early 2013, following my experience at Biotechnology YES, I joined a team co-founding the Innovation Forum, followed by Cambridge Squared and more recently in 2014, Healx, a pharmaceutical informatics company that uses advanced computer based software to reposition currently available (FDA approved) drugs for alternative use in rare diseases. Healx was accepted into the SBC Incubator programme and the Accelerate Cambridge programme, part of the CJBS, receiving outstanding advice and guidance as part of these schemes from mentors and senior staff. One of our first projects involves a new case of a rare disease, first diagnosed in five year old Bertrand Might from New York. We are currently working with his family to try and identify alternative drugs that might target the same pathway disrupted in similar patients.

These great opportunities are the result of the excellent stepping stone role Biotechnology YES and similar programmes play, inspiring me and also many of my colleagues in research to venture into the world of bio-entrepreneurship and consider the biotech/pharma industry as a possible career path. This valuable support for the grassroots research community will continue to generate more dedicated young entrepreneurs that are making the UK one of the foremost bio-entrepreneurial regions in the world.

SamWilliams

Last month, Modern Biosciences (MBS) announced details of its collaboration with Janssen Biotech, facilitated by the J&J Innovation Centre in London. Here, Sam Williams, CEO of Modern Biosciences, details the vital role played by the Biomedical Catalyst in the journey leading up to the collaboration.

On the 27th November, Modern Biosciences (MBS) announced a £176 million option and licensing deal with Janssen Biotech, a division of Johnson and Johnson, relating to its novel rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drugs. This was a watershed moment for MBS in terms of securing the funding required to take our lead programme into the clinic as well as finding the right collaborator to take it to market, neither of which would have been possible without the Biomedical Catalyst (BMC).

The history of MBS traces the typical biotech rollercoaster ride, possibly with more acute ups and downs, but that story is for another day. Suffice to say, in recent years our focus had become a series of compounds with an unknown molecular mechanism but intriguing in vivo behaviour which suggested they had the potential to do something unique in the treatment of RA – that is, not only reduce inflammation, but also exert a directly protective effect on bone.

The compounds were originally licensed from the University of Aberdeen in 2007, very soon after MBS was founded. In those naïve start-up days, we assumed we’d have optimised candidates in a year, be in the clinic in two and have sold the programme to pharma in three. However, as anyone who’s ever run a ‘black-box’ programme knows, life’s not so easy, particularly when you’re a virtual organisation with one full-time employee working from a desk in London. Although we were lucky enough to have support from IP Group, we often questioned what on earth we were doing. “Too early, too risky, no target” is what the VCs and pharmas kept telling us.

That started to change in 2012 when we won our first BMC award – a £1.6 million grant to support the programme to IND. The ironic thing is, I didn’t think we had a chance of winning – not only did we have an unusual programme, but the application process itself seemed laborious and the questions repetitive and counter-intuitive. Lisa Patel, now CSO of MBS, saw things differently and convinced us to chance our arm. So we did. And we were, quite frankly, amazed when we discovered we’d won three months later – for the first time in about 4 years, someone else believed in what we were doing.

With the BMC award providing our first external validation, IP Group could ramp up its support with greater conviction. This meant we were able to expand our team of two consultants to twenty-five, covering immunological pathology, tox, PK, formulation, process chemistry and so on, as well as pay for experiments that helped to finally tease apart the mechanism of action.

With a clinical candidate soon in place, we started to engage with potential licensees and stumbled upon the team at the J&J Innovation Centre in London. The programme was still a difficult sell to most big pharmas – after all, we didn’t know the precise molecular target – but in the J&J team we found a group of people who were driven by the science rather than a BD box-ticking process. The rest, as they say, is history.

Other than financing, going through the BMC process brought several unexpected benefits, not least that it sharpened our view of what we were doing and why. What really was the unique positioning of our product? Did we honestly think we’d be able to commercialise after filing an IND? It’s one thing talking about these matters, but quite another thing committing them to paper.

And the support continues: the week before we signed the Janssen deal, we announced the award of our second BMC grant for the RA programme, this one for £2.4 million. This will make a vital contribution to the cost of our Phase 1 programme, which is still very much in our hands.

In summary, the BMC has played a critical role in what has been a great result for MBS, its shareholders and the University of Aberdeen. However, there is still a long way to go and the true measure of success will be the launch of a drug that has a positive impact on patient outcomes. If this happens, then it can safely be said that it might not have done so without the BMC.

Round 8 of the BioMedical Catalyst is currently open for applications. Registration for early stage awards will close on 21 January 2015 and the deadline for submissions is 28 January 2015. Registration for feasibility studies will close on 18 March 2015 and the deadline for submissions is 21 March 2015. Further information is available from Innovate UK.

Takeda SIP blogIn January 2012, Takeda Cambridge became one of the very first companies in the UK to take on a Higher Apprentice in Life Sciences. Three years on, Linda Millett (Head of HR at Takeda) shares their experience and the successful outcome for the company and the apprentice.

When we first heard about Higher Apprenticeships, I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to encourage school-leavers into the life sciences industry, providing them with an alternative career pathway and practical laboratory experience.

In my view, too many young people are unaware of the alternatives to university and these opportunities are not always flagged to them by their teachers, careers advisors or indeed their parents. Of course we recruit graduates and will continue to do so, but university is not the only option and I firmly believe that an apprenticeship equips young people with practical, work-based, transferable skills which really benefit them and the organisation they work for.

Our Higher Apprentice, Natalie, joined us early in 2012 and it was clear from the start that she was committed and keen to learn. Originally planning a gap year after completing her A levels, Natalie decided that a work-based apprenticeship with a Foundation Degree “thrown in” (her words!) was a good option for her.

Natalie has achieved consistently high academic results throughout her degree course and has made a real and lasting contribution to our drug discovery efforts. Phil Mitchell (Senior Research Leader, in vitro pharmacology) comments, “Natalie has had the opportunity to see all aspects of the drug discovery process and to have that exposure is unique for an undergraduate.  I view the Higher Apprenticeship on a par with a degree and the additional hands-on experience plus an academic qualification is invaluable”.

Natalie was also a finalist for the title of Higher Apprentice of the Year in the UK Life Science Skills Awards 2013. She has decided to continue her studies and is now completing her Honours degree via the University of Kent – we are sponsoring her to do this. The passion and commitment of Dr Scott Wildman (Medway School of Pharmacy) deserves a mention here too – his vision and support for the Higher Apprenticeship scheme has been outstanding.

Our investment in Natalie and the Higher Apprenticeship Scheme has really paid dividends. We will have a fully trained graduate with more than three years’ work experience in the laboratory and we are now in a position to offer her a permanent job, whilst continuing to sponsor her degree programme. An excellent outcome for everyone involved and a real success story.

I continue to be a passionate advocate for apprenticeships and the skills agenda in life sciences and I am currently a member of the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) Board.  The SIP recently secured funding of £52 million from Government and employers for investment in new and emerging science talent, creating more than 7,800 education and skills opportunities over a two-year period. One initiative involves the creation of SMART apprenticeships with tailored Apprenticeship Training Plans (ATPs) designed around the employer and the job rather than the qualification. This approach identifies the training and qualifications required by the business, allowing employers to develop the Apprenticeship to meet their business needs.

I would encourage all employers to invest in our industry’s future by investing in a SMART or Higher Apprentice.

Importantly, the SIP is also providing a means for employers to take ownership of the skills needed to generate innovation and growth in the science industries. To find out more about the SIP’s vision and aims go to www.scienceindustrypartnership.com

To find out how you can benefit from this initiative and to get involved, email Elizabeth Curran at Cogent,elizabeth.curran@cogent-ssc.com.

Read our first case study, from Chris Mullen at FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies to find out more about the Workforce Development and the SMART apprenticeships available through SIP.

2014 new members_600x300A crowd of the great and the good, including the BIA, gathered in Westminster last Friday to hear Vince Cable’s thoughts on science and innovation investment. However what we had expected to be a summary of the new Science and Innovation Strategy turned out to be more of a legacy speech from the Business Secretary of progress made so far within this Parliament and challenges and opportunities for the next five years. You can read our analysis of the speech here.

In his speech, Cable was clear on the importance of translating scientific endeavour into commercial success. On investment in science and innovation, Cable highlighted how this has proven to be economically productive, however if the UK wants to remain ambitious and competitive it should be at least aiming to achieve the OECD average of 2.5% of GDP invested in R&D. It would be a joint challenge for industry and government to work out how it would find that additional investment.

On innovation, Cable said he still thinks there is scope to build the innovation base in SMEs and listed a number of ways the coalition government has tried to support innovation including investment in Innovate UK, focus on sector specific industrial strategies (including life sciences), and investment in Catapults – hinting that more would be announced soon.

Usefully on Thursday night I chaired a great discussion hosted by AECOM and One Nucleus on what science infrastructure we need. What struck me most was that there seems to be no strategy linking private investment with that from the public sector – so no truly national overview. Lots is going on and up – Pirbright, Stevenage, Cambridge. Some is coming down – Horsham, old bits of Sandwich. There is a desire for some new capacity (Kings Cross London). What is clear is that the UK’s ecosystem approach is providing opportunity and some capacity with efficiency here provided by the market rather than Chinese Communist style 10 year planning.

We look forward to hearing the new Science and Innovation Strategy and will aim to provide an overview for members once announced.

The Medical Innovation Bill received its Report Stage debate in the House of Lords on Friday. The BIA has been briefing Peers on our views on this legislation and were mentioned alongside other organisations by Lord Turnberg. Peers considered amendments on whether a doctor should obtain full support from other qualified doctors before beginning innovative treatment, and whether further guidance and explanation should be given to a patient as information became available. A number of amendments tabled by Lord Saatchi were approved and the latest version of the Bill can be found here. In response to an opposition amendment on the need to record outcomes from innovative use, Baroness Jolly responded for the government stating, “a stand-alone clause that would require doctors to register the results of innovative treatment would widen the scope of the Bill to cover all innovation. This Private Member’s Bill is not the right vehicle to make provision that would relate to all innovation”. In terms of what happens next, it is as yet not fully clear, but government support suggests the Bill has a good chance of proceeding in the House of Commons. That said, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP, GP and Chair of the Health Select Committee was incredibly critical of the Bill in a patient safety debate last week, stating that the Bill is “fundamentally flawed”.

The Mayor of London has commissioned the most detailed analysis of London’s tech sector ever undertaken for a major city, with the results set to underpin policy and planning for the next decade. Make sure the capital’s vibrant and varied life sciences sector is properly represented in the study by completing the survey here.

Last Thursday I was pleased to announce Antibiotic Research UK as the official BIA charity for 2015. Antibiotic resistance is a major global problem with significant implications for public health, highlighted by Jim O’Neill that same day as part of his review into the matter. It’s an issue the BIA are committed to supporting, having pushed for it to be a priority in the newly formed International Council of Biotech Associations, therefore we’re delighted to be able to support the work of Antibiotic Research UK and looking forward to working with them in 2015.

As Christmas hits next week, we’re taking a look back at the best of 2014 in today’s Newscast. Our membership continues to grow with 41 companies joining the BIA since January – depicted in the picture above. A warm welcome to you all.

We’ve hosted some fantastic events through 2014. Celebrating the BIA’s 25th anniversary year, we held our inaugural Annual Lecture and also hosted the bioProcessUK conference for the first time. It’s great to be able to introduce new events alongside our flagship favourites. One of the highlights for 2014 was winning Conference of the Year at the Trade Association Forum Awards back in July for the UK Bioscience Forum – a great achievement we’re all very proud of.

Our three most popular blogs highlight some of the hottest topics for the sector in 2014, including early access. Last January I attended the Empower Access to Medicines campaign meeting, where Earl Howe discussed the possibility of introducing a “promising innovation designation”. Fast forward 12 months and the Early Access to Medicines Scheme is up and running and the first PIM designation has been awarded. The progress we’ve made in the last year is truly encouraging and I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress in 2015.

On that note, I wish you Merry Christmas from all at the BIA and we’ll be back in the New Year.

Best,

Steve

Yesterday we were delighted to announce Antibiotic Research UK as our official charity of the year for 2015.

Antibiotic resistance is a major global problem with significant implications for public health, as highlighted in the first paper published by the Jim O’Neill review into antimicrobial resistance yesterday. The biotech industry will play a key role in the solution to antibiotic resistance through the development of new antibiotics, diagnostics and novel therapies. As such, we are delighted to be able to support the work of Antibiotic Research UK and raise the profile of this new charity.

Today’s member video, from Public Health England, provides an overview of the problem and how you can help by becoming an antibiotic guardian.

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

CTC_1A crowd of the great and the good, including the BIA, gathered in Westminster this morning to hear Vince Cable’s thoughts on science and innovation investment. However what we had expected to be a summary of the new Science and Innovation Strategy (originally anticipated to be announced alongside the Autumn Statement last week) turned out to be more of a legacy speech from the Business Secretary of progress made so far within this Parliament and challenges and opportunities for the next five years.

Cable was keen to set the tone by introducing the sub-title of his speech as “how to manage long-term investment in science and technology in an environment of austerity”.

He posed three key propositions in relation to this before proceeding to set out three key questions for the future and his views on how these might be answered.

Cable’s propositions were as follows:

  • Investment in science and innovation has proved to be economically productive
  • Investment in R&D crowds in, rather than crowds out, private money and public investment can effectively support innovation
  • The UK is an established world leader in science but has historically been less good at translating this into commercial success – which is why government has focused on this issue since 2010

His questions concerning the future were:

  • Is government doing enough? And what is the right target to aim for?
  • Are we spending money in the right way?
  • Are we really cracking the innovation question?

His answers and proposal to those were:

  • Government has held the line on investment in science and innovation in a challenging environment and last week’s announcement of a £1.1bn a year investment rising with inflation from 2016-2021 does, he believes, go a long way to assuage concerns about the level of capital investment. However he was keen to point out that despite improvements, the UK still lags behind other countries in terms of R&D investment. The UK invests 1.7% of its GDP compared to 2.8% in the USA, 3% in Germany and 3.5% in Japan. Cable’s view was that if the UK wants to remain ambitious and competitive it should be at least aiming to achieve the OECD average of 2.5% of GDP invested in R&D. It would be a joint challenge for industry and government to work out how it would find that additional investment.
  • Following the “northern powerhouse” rhetoric of last week’s Autumn Statement, the Business Secretary also questioned whether the geographical spread of scientific research was quite right and whether more needed to be done to help Northern Universities build the right research centres. He also posited the broader question of how do we manage the consideration of the longer term issues of relevance to UK plc, balanced with the existing and short term mechanisms of research approval.
  • On innovation, Cable said he still thinks there is scope to build the innovation base in SMEs and listed a number of ways the coalition government has tried to support innovation including investment in Innovate UK, focus on sector specific industrial strategies (including life sciences), and investment in Catapults (hinting that more would be announced soon). He also pointed to initiatives such as the Business Bank and Business Growth Fund as government led initiatives to keep innovative businesses in the UK.

The tone of this speech was very much a review of progress made by this government and a genuine portrayal of cross-party issues that require ongoing thought and commitment to progress, whoever holds the keys next May. It was encouraging to see the importance of R&D investment outlined as well as the need to continue focused policy making to ensure that scientific endeavour does translate to commercial success and that those businesses are incentivised to emerge and stay in the UK.

The text of the speech is not yet available so we hope this is a useful update for those looking out for the Science and Innovation Strategy and we will of course be back in touch with a full brief when that is released.

According to PubMed, over the last four years the number of scientific papers with CRISPR-Cas in the title has soared from 45 to 501. But why the sudden burst of interest in a relatively obscure immune response found only in prokaryotes? Nicola McCarthy, Oncology Program Manager for Horizon Discovery, uses some recent publications to explain their growing obsession.

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) and the CRISPR-associated (Cas) genes were first described in Bacteria and Archaea by Ruud Jansen and colleagues1 in 2002. This rudimentary prokaryotic ‘immune response’ has been thrust into the limelight recently because the nuclease activity of the Cas proteins is being harnessed to engineer the mammalian genome in radically new ways.

Cas nucleases cleave DNA and can be guided to specific DNA sequences through the use of single guide RNAs (sgRNAs). The DNA strand breaks that Cas nucleases induce are repaired by a variety of DNA repair pathways which can often lead to the generation of insertions or deletions (indels). These indels can result in missense mutations, thereby preventing the expression of a targeted gene, for example.  Hence, sgRNA-Cas has been used for genome wide knockout screens and is a useful alternative to current techniques such as siRNA and shRNA screens, which can have substantial off target effects. If, in addition to the sgRNA-Cas construct, a template for DNA repair is included, specific mutations can be introduced through homologous directed DNA repair. Thus, at Horizon Discovery we are using sgRNA–Cas along with rAAV vectors as templates to generate isogenic cell lines with specific point mutations in addition to carrying-out genome wide and gene specific screens.

CRISPR (Cas9) Genome-Editing

CRISPR (Cas9) Genome-Editing

However, this is not the only reason we have an invested interest in this technology.  The uses of sgRNA–Cas are expanding rapidly and include the generation of relevant tumour models for the identification and validation of new and efficacious treatments for cancer. Two recent papers published in Nature nicely illustrate this.

In the first paper, Andrea Ventura and colleagues2 used sgRNAs to direct Cas9-mediated DNA cutting to the Eml4 and Alk genes in the lung. This resulted in some of the lung cells having an Eml4Alk inversion, mimicking the EML4ALK inversion that occurs in a subset of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. Indeed, mice with the engineered Eml4Alk inversion developed lung lesions followed by lung tumours. Importantly, treatment of these mice with the ALK inhibitor crizotinib resulted in complete disease regression in the majority of mice, verifying that this mouse model mimics patients with ALK positive non-small cell lung cancer.

Taking a slightly different approach, Tyler Jacks and colleagues3 used sgRNA–Cas9 to examine how the deletion of different tumour suppressor genes (Nkx2-1, Pten and Apc) impacts lung cancer development driven by Kras mutations in mice. Their results support the evidence that the underlying genetic background of the tumour effects its development and how aggressive it is likely to be.

Use of these types of models during preclinical drug development might better support target identification and validation, as well as informing patient selection and stratification. Importantly, these kinds of approaches might also help us to determine why some mutations are selected for during tumour development and thereby identify new targets for drug development.

References

  1. Jansen, R., Embden J.D., Gaastra, W., & Schouls, L.M. Identification of genes that are associated with DNA repeats in prokaryotes. Mol Microbiol. 43, 1565-1575 (2002).
  2. Maddalo, D., et al. In vivo engineering of oncogenic chromosomal rearrangements with the CRISPR/Cas9 system. Nature. doi 10.1038/nature13902
  3. Sanchez-Rivera, F.J, et al. Rapid modelling of genetic events in cancer through somatic editing. Nature. doi 10.1038/nature13906

If you’d like more information on CRISPR genome editing, Horizon Discovery have created a video which can be watched here

Chris MullenThe Science Industry Partnership (SIP) was launched by former Science Minister, David Willetts, in July this year. Almost six months on, we take a look at how the employer-led initiative is helping companies to address their skills needs. Today’s post comes from Chris Mullen, Skills Development Lead at FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies.

In October 2013, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) submitted a bid on behalf of the science industries, designed to change the future of the UK’s science economy through the formation of the Science Industry Partnership (SIP). The successful outcome sees the UK government contributing £32.6 million to the SIP, with £20 million co-investment from employers, alongside £31 million in-kind contributions. The SIP vision is to provide a means for employers to take ownership of the skills needed to generate innovation and growth in the science industries. The SIP encompasses Life Sciences – pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical technology, consumer healthcare, and Industrial Sciences – chemicals, industrial bio-technology, polymers, advanced materials, formulations.

At FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, we have been involved with the Gold Standard Technicians strand of Workforce Development, as well as the SMART apprenticeships. Working in a regulated environment, we need to demonstrate that our staff are trained and competent, something we do through our electronic learning system. This ends up, due to the complexity of our business, as a long list of procedures and training modules. One of the benefits of the Gold Standards is that it provides with us a framework to present our training in a more structured manner, thus making it easier to identify gaps which we can close using the co-funding from SIP.

We held a Gold Standard workshop on site, facilitated by Cogent, looking at technician level roles across manufacturing, quality control & engineering. The workshop identified gaps around underpinning knowledge of unit operations and process maintenance. For the latter, we are working with a local provider to develop a bespoke programme which will be co-funded through SIP. This has opened up an opportunity of linking across to our SIP apprenticeship programme, so that both our existing staff and our apprentices benefit.

A key outcome from the SIP will be to drive the standard of training provision upwards, giving employers confidence in accessing it. This will be partly driven by employers sharing best practice and training that will benefit the whole industry. This was highlighted during our Gold Standard mapping session. An unexpected opportunity arose during the mapping session, when we were demonstrating our R&D e-learning packages during a discussion on the laboratory analyst role. As these are generic packages, we realised that these could be used across the biotechnology industry, so we are working with Cogent to see how we would enable this. There is a great opportunity here for training to be shared and this links into the Skills for Growth strand of the Workforce Development, which is aimed at SME’s.  Companies can have confidence in accessing training through Skills for Growth knowing that it has been quality assured through an independent process overseen by the SIP Quality Group.

One of the key aims of SIP now is to encourage sharing of best practice in skills. It’s just a question of picking up the phone or sending an email. For example, we are looking to recruit a young person into our Quality Assurance function and wondered whether this could be done as an apprenticeship. A quick look ourselves drew a blank, however after asking our SIP account manager, they came back with an apprenticeship framework which another SIP employer was using their Quality Assurance apprentices. This was as good as a stamp of approval, so we are continuing to progress this along with other opportunities.

It’s only 4 months into the SIP yet it is already realising opportunities for us in upskilling our staff and attracting young people into biotechnology.

To find out how you can benefit from this initiative and to get involved, email Elizabeth Curran at Cogent, elizabeth.curran@cogent-ssc.com.

Read previous BIA guest blogs on the SIP: Equipping the science industry workforce with skills for sustainability by Cogent; and Building an innovation pipeline through skills by Malcolm Skingle.

HSTs_booklet_600x300Last week saw the Chancellor deliver his Autumn Statement. Beyond the macro political and economic message of staying the course to economic recovery, for our sector, there was much to be welcomed including increases in R&D tax credits (from 1 April 2015 the rate of above the line credit will increase from 10% to 11% and for SMEs the rate of credit will increase from 225% to 230%), investment of £5.9 billion into UK research infrastructure over next 5 years, new investments in high value manufacturing including an additional £61 million funding for the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, as well as new processes to make the administration of tax-advantaged venture capital schemes more effective and straightforward. Read our full analysis here.

There have also been further developments on the Patent Box. In a statement to Parliament, the government confirmed that its joint proposal with Germany for a new nexus approach for Patent Box schemes had been adopted by the by OECD-G20 members at the Forum for Harmful Tax Practices (FTHP) and the EU Code of Conduct Group during meetings between 17 and 20 November. The BIA has also recently met with HM Treasury officials to further understand the process going forward and articulate issues of concern to members in the implementation of these changes. We anticipate formal consultation from the Treasury in 2015 and will also be engaging directly with the OECD, when it comes to London in January next year, to consult stakeholders on its processes to take forward these issues. As I’ve stated before, we are forming a BIA working group on the Patent Box. If you’d like to become involved or learn more please contact Pamela Learmonth.

Last Tuesday, together with colleagues at Genetic Alliance UK, we held a roundtable discussion on the topic of access to Highly Specialised Technologies (HSTs) – medicines for very rare diseases – with 20 stakeholders including several Lords, Andrew Miller MP, and representatives from industry and patient organisations. We set out some polling data that clearly shows the public supports the need for patients with very rare diseases to have equal access to treatment compared to patients with more common conditions. Much of the conversation centred around the framework for evaluation of HSTs, which is currently unclear, complicated and is not enabling enough life-improving therapies to reach patients in need. Genetic Alliance UK presented an update on their Patient Charter, outlining patient perspectives and priorities, calling on policymakers to ensure the HST evaluation process is fit for purpose in the wider commissioning landscape, and for transparency in the process including how drugs are selected and on what basis the health economics calculations are made. One important consideration is that NICE’s current definition of ‘clinically distinct’, used in the selection process, does not reflect sub-groups of patients defined by genetic or symptom biomarkers, which are increasingly relevant.

Today I’m pleased to be speaking at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC)’s masterclass workshop on developing partnerships with industry. The AMRC has just published an Essential Partnerships guide for medical research charities working with industry, covering everything from the benefits of collaboration to the practicalities of developing the agreement and managing IP in a partnership. Of course the guide will be equally helpful for companies wanting to collaborate with charities. For more information about charity collaborations you might also want to see this summary of an event BIA and AMRC co-hosted back in January and AMRC’s recent guest blogs (http://wp.me/p2pLWn-rnhttp://wp.me/p2pLWn-AO).

The Medical Innovation Bill will receive its Report Stage debate in the House of Lords this Friday. The BIA has continued to engage with Peers on this issue and a report back on that debate will come round in next week’s Newscast.

2014 looks set to end on a high in terms of IPOs in the sector. New BIA member Midatech saw its first day of dealings on AIM today, Liverpool-based Evgen announced plans to raise £20m when it floats later this month and Quantum Pharma looks likely to become the sector’s biggest float on AIM this year when it starts trading on Wednesday. A great end to fantastic year for UK life science IPOs.

At the recent bioProcessUK conference I launched our ‘Ebola capacity audit’, to assess what the UK biotech community could offer should large scale manufacturing of an Ebola treatment or vaccine be required. We’ve designed a survey to collect information on what organisations have to offer – facilities, knowledge or equipment. We plan to feedback our results to the government by the end of 2014, so please take a look over the next week and consider what your organisation could offer. The survey can be completed here.

Finally, a reminder that next week’s Newscast will be showcasing the best of 2014 as a round-up of the year. We’ll then be taking a break over the festive period, returning 12 January.

Best,

Steve

This week’s member video features footage from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Great British Bioscience Festival.

Throughout 2014 BBSRC-funded researchers toured the UK with exciting and engaging exhibitions, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BBSRC. This culminated on 14-16 November when BBSRC researchers showcased the best of British bioscience at the Great British Bioscience Festival, held at Museum Gardens in London’s Bethnal Green.

The BBSRC is currently seeking applications from industrialists/users in agri-tech to join their Council. Positions are also available within other Research Councils. For further information please visit our jobs page.

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

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