Archives for the month of: September, 2013

Last week at the Labour party conference the BIA held the second in a series of events to pose the question ‘Life sciences and the NHS: friends or foes?’, in collaboration with the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and other UK life science trade bodies ABPI, BIVDA and ABHI.

On Wednesday 25 September attendees came from the biopharmaceutical industry, learned societies, medical research charities and the NIHR for the breakfast event in Brighton. They were joined by MPs Andrew Miller (Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee) and Iain Wright (Shadow Minister for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills).

Following introductions around the table – and some hearty bacon sandwiches – three case studies were presented which reflected aspects of the relationship between the NHS and life science research and development.

In the first case study Laura Williams, Senior Public Affairs Manager at Cancer Research UK discussed their Stratified Medicine Programme, which aims to lay the foundations for stratified medicine development.

The next case study came from Nomagugu Khumalo, Clinical Trials Officer from the North West London Diabetes Research Network. Noma outlined how the Network functions to proactively put patients in touch with suitable clinical trials.

The final case study was from Dan Beety at Bayer and Vince Holder at Bristol Myers Squibb concerning Novel Oral AntiCoagulants (NOACs), a safer alternative to warfarin for the treatment of atrial Fibrillation and therefore prevention of stroke. Despite the benefits and recognition as a ‘high impact innovation’, there has been less uptake of NOACs within the NHS than expected. The attendees felt that this example clearly highlighted the need for improved uptake of innovation in the NHS.

Between case studies, the attendees discussed related issues with the policymakers, including the need for a market at the end of the research and development pipeline, and areas where the UK risks falling behind other nations such as in instituting an Early Access scheme. The work of the NIHR and the Health Research Authority towards a single sign-off regulatory process was highlighted as a positive step, as was the role of the new Academic Health Science Networks in joining up innovation, commerce and patients.

In summing up the discussion, Andrew Miller MP and Iain Wright MP were in agreement that for the NHS to be in a position to offer patients novel innovations there will need to be a sound understanding of business policy and healthcare economics across government departments and considering both local and national levels of the NHS.

Read a blog about the roundtable discussion at the Liberal Democrat conference here.

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On Friday 27 September members of the biotech community had the opportunity to talk directly to Rt Hon Sir Jim Paice, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, at a roundtable discussion organised by the BIA at Cambridge Science Park.

The discussion, followed by a tour of the labs and offices of Arecor, was a curtain raiser to the BIA’s activities for European Biotech Week. Attendees represented more than eleven biotech companies, as well as the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and other stakeholders.

After introductions from Steve Bates (CEO of BIA), host Tom Saylor (CEO of Arecor) and from guests around the table, the first topic up for discussion was the government’s support for innovation. The Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) was discussed at length as a positive example of a government initiative that is directly benefitting UK research and development (R&D) and leveraging significant private investment. As recipients of business-led BMC awards, Eddie Littler from Domainex and Graham Clarke from ImmunoBiology acknowledged that the awards have been highly beneficial for enabling research and as validation of business models.

From his perspective as an angel investor, Andy Richards pointed out that the BMC was successful in part because it had reached the sector in a timely and light-touch fashion, and had even led to more optimistic behaviour at the Board level of some companies. One company which would have relocated to the US had decided to remain in the UK after receiving a BMC award, and Steve Bates confirmed that he had heard similar sentiments at BIA events around the UK.

Attendees also discussed the difficulty that biotech companies encounter in trying to access the UK public markets, particularly in contrast to the situation in the US. However, it was noted that some differences were cultural and that positive examples of UK biotech business models do exist and should be publicised.

In terms of pragmatic actions that the government could explore, Steve Bates and Harren Jhoti, CEO of Astex, suggested that the ability to invest pension funds into innovative sectors should be reviewed. It was also noted by attendees that the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) work well, and that having multiple initiatives such as the Patent Box, R&D tax credits and the proposed Science Industry Partnership (SIP) for skills training all encourage investment into the UK biotech sector. One important point was that the NHS should act as a catalyst for innovation and for that there must be ‘pull-through’, i.e. access to a market and appropriate valuation and reimbursement.

Jim_Paice_roundtable2_220_portraitThe second topic for discussion was Cambridge’s position as a life science hub. Sir Jim Paice described how, having been MP for South East Cambridgeshire for 26 years, he had witnessed the Cambridge biotech sector growing and changing considerably. Attendees discussed the relative merits of the government investing further into regions with established biotech hubs versus distributing funding throughout the UK. The relocation of AstraZeneca’s corporate headquarters to Cambridge was seen as a positive message of support for UK R&D. Finally, one practical improvement for the global viability of Cambridge would be an increased number of transatlantic flights at Stanstead airport.

Following the lively and engaged roundtable session Sir Jim noted suggestions that could be fed back to government and thanked the attendees for their input, before touring Arecor with CEO Tom Saylor.

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With the Rt Hon Sir Jim Paice MP at our roundtable discussion last week

With our UK Bioscience Forum, Autumn Reception and AGM fast approaching on the 10th October I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to register and make the most of this day. The CPD-certified programme is packed with informative sessions on manufacturing, finance and tax and IP amongst many others together with keynote speeches from Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, and Jim Greenwood, President and CEO, BIO plus speed-partnering, excellent networking and a busy exhibition hall. Please register here if you haven’t already.

It also allows me to remind members of your chance to vote for the BIA’s Board elections. We have a panel of truly excellent candidates up for election and I would strongly recommend you have a look at who is standing and casting your vote accordingly.

Today marks the beginning of European Biotech Week with events and showcases taking place all over Europe. The BIA is doing its part to raise the importance of our sector starting last Friday with a roundtable discussion in Cambridge with Sir James Paice MP (read the blog here). The industry attendees (over 20 in all) allowed for a good discussion on the role of government support with a lot of practical ideas raised. Our activities will continue throughout the week concluding this coming Friday where members of the BIA team will attend a British Heart Foundation shop in Peterborough to say thank you to the generous public and speak to local shoppers about the positive effect their donations have on medical research.

We will also find out this week who wins the EuropaBio Most Innovative European Biotech SME Award 2013. This year two UK companies have been shortlisted for the award – PsiOxus and e-Therapeutics – and it would be great if a UK company is recognised in this European wide event.

On the policy front, last week our Head of Regulatory Affairs Christiane Abouzeid presented at a breakfast briefing on the proposed Clinical Trials Regulation hosted by the BIA and EuropaBio in Brussels. This event provided Permanent Representations to the EU with an opportunity to exchange views and better understand the European life sciences sector’s concerns with regard the current debate on the proposals. This is an important issue and one we continue to actively engage upon. The BIA also submitted comments on the European Medicines Agency’s draft policy on the publication and access to clinical trial data which called for an appropriate process to determine the proper basis for publication and access to clinical trial data.

In the synthetic biology world, I was very pleased to see Synthace complete a £1.3 million financing round led by Sofinnova Partners. The BIA’s new Synthetic Biology Advisory Committee is already active in a wide range of areas to raise the profile of this emerging innovative sector and it is fantastic to see its potential being backed by investors and I congratulate Synthace on their news.

Finally, last week the BIA’s placement student through Cogent (the sector skills council) Hana Janebdar, finished her time with us. Cogent have established the placement service to be easily useable and accessible for companies and organisations in the sector and we were very pleased with the process and all the good work Hana was able to do in her time here. Hana has commented on her reflections of what it was like to go through the process, and if any employers are interested in accessing this placement programme the BIA would be happy to connect you with the Cogent team.

Best

Steve

Having reached the end of a six week Cogent summer placement with the BIA as a Policy and Public Affairs Intern, Hana Janebdar, an Imperial College Biology student, reflects on her experience.

Spending this summer as part of a trade association representing groundbreaking biotech research and development has been the perfect introduction to this extraordinary industry. This opportunity has provided me with a real insight into the big issues for the sector, science policy and most of all it has made me aware of the broad scope of life science careers.

The main project that I have been working on at the BIA involved summarising the share price histories for all the biotech companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, and looking through their corresponding press releases to account for the peaks and troughs in share prices over the past five years. This formed the basis of a further document I produced which outlined – with statistical analysis – the current state and performance of the UK public limited biotech sector. The project was a learning curve and a discovery of the value of working backwards from, instead of forwards to, the end goal!

Having a project like this to work on, from planning to implementing and adjusting, while also getting involved with the day-to-day running of the BIA was great. I also attended BIA advisory commitee meetings and a roundtable event in Cambridge with Sir Jim Paice MP. It is not often that life science students get to see how the academic skills and knowledge they are obtaining can eventually be translated to effecting progression in their sector, or to meet the people who are as excited about helping to grow the sector as we, as students, are of engaging with it.

I would definitely encourage all my peers to apply for this placement when it next becomes available in the summer of 2014. I wanted a placement over the summer that provided an alternative to a lab-based experience, so when this opportunity was emailed to us by our Department of Life Sciences, I applied. The application process, advertised and organised by Cogent, consisted of an interview with BIA staff members after an initial CV submission. The team at Cogent were extremely helpful every step of the way, from contacting me about the suitable placement opportunity to giving me advice about interview techniques.

I have enjoyed this placement tremendously and would like to thank the BIA team for all their support and guidance.

More information on the placement service provided by Cogent, the sector skills council, is available here.

Europa Bio SME award

Last Tuesday, the BIA, BIVDA, ABPI, ABHI and AMRC hosted a successful senior-level roundtable discussion at Liberal Democrat party conference discussing the question “Life sciences and the NHS: friends or foes?“. The attendees were joined by Paul Burstow MP, a recent Liberal Democrat health Minister, and Jeremy Purvis, former Member of the Scottish Parliament and newly announced Peer. Attendees heard from three speakers each outlining a case study that spoke to the theme of the breakfast and highlighted the wide range of initiatives underway to tackle that very point and the breadth and depth of integration needed to improve patient outcomes.

Also at Lib Dem conference I was very pleased to hear that at another fringe event to discuss investment in life sciences Julian Huppert MP spoke again in favour of the BIA’s Citizens’ Innovation Funds proposal recognising it as a policy which could spur much needed additional investment into innovative companies.

Thanks to Fiona Marston from Absynth Biologics for providing real insight from a winners perspective at our second Biomedical Catalyst briefing in Nottingham. The meeting was a timely update for attendees thinking of applying before the 2 October for the current fourth round of Biomedical Catalyst funding.

I participated in the alternative funding panel at Bionow’s Biocap conference. I discussed the potential for Citizens’ Innovation Funds alongside contributions on Technology Strategy Board funding, the Business Growth Fund and the opportunities from both new private fund entrants to the field and specific regional funds. It was great to see the strength of companies from across the north presenting.

I am delighted that two BIA member companies, e-Therapeutics and PsiOxus, have been shortlisted for this year’s EuropaBio Most Innovative EU Biotech SME Award. The award will be presented during the first ever European Biotechnology Week, at an event in Brussels on 2 October. The shortlisted companies have received two year’s free membership of EuropaBio, and the over-all winner will receive €10,000. Having two out of the five shortlisted companies shows the strength of the UK biotech sector in Europe. It is great to see BIA member companies getting the recognition they deserve in this prestigious European competition.

And finally, the UK Bioscience Forum and Autumn Reception is just three weeks away, and I urge you to register as soon as possible. The programme is now complete and full details can be viewed on the website. We have a fantastic line-up of speakers, a full exhibition hall with a wide range of companies exhibiting, speed-partnering and a host of parallel tracks and keynote presentations, including London Mayor, Boris Johnson and Jim Greenwood, President and CEO, BIO. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

Best
Steve

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The Southampton UIST team at BIO in Chicago

The University of Southampton is one of the world’s leading entrepreneurial universities, with an impressive track record in creating new life science companies and engaging with the health and pharmaceutical industry. Karl Simpson, who leads the university’s Health & Pharma University Industry Sector Team (UIST), explains how UIST proactively facilitates and stimulates relationships with industry partners.

What the Health & Pharma UIST does:

The Health & Pharma UIST seeks to optimise university industry interactions in all areas from charitable giving to responding to government policy issues – as in the BIA response to the review of universities and growth led by Sir Andrew Witty. However, the main thrusts of our activity are in:

  • Ensuring employability for our graduates and post-graduates through engagement with prospective employers in the Health & Pharma area
  • Promoting academic-industry collaboration in research with a particular focus on translational outcomes.

To achieve this we identified our top 10 commercial partners. We also looked at life science companies with products requiring a research and development (R&D) input within an hour’s drive of Southampton. To our surprise there are more than 120. Together with research-active hospitals, universities and institutions in the area (ranging from Public Health England and DSTL Porton Down to Marwell Park Zoo) we have over 140 potential partners in a biomedical cluster stretching from Worthing to Dorchester and going as far north as Abingdon.

In business it is all about deliverables – we deliver on our outstanding reputation:

The Health & Pharma UIST has actively gone out to engage with industry movers and shakers – including the BIA. Our actions to achieve this aim have included:

  • Recruitment of Ian Clark (Chief Executive Officer of Genentech) and top industry players to sit on our External Advisory Board
  • Mapping Faculty/Unit capabilities and projecting these onto the needs of potential corporate partners
  • Successful targeting of corporate partners, both large and small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Among others, we organised a GSK day with their Developmental Partnerships with Academia team and a similar day with French SME, Prestwick Chemical.
  • Launch of the Health & Pharma UIST website
  • Presentation of Southampton capabilities at local and international conferences (our stand at BIO in Chicago received a very warm reception)
  • Formal creation pending for the South Coast/Wessex Biocluster, with support from Local Enterprise Partnerships, the new Wessex Academic Health Science Network and local authorities

Within the university there is considerable multi-faculty engagement and academic principal investigators are learning to adapt to the needs of corporate partners.

How we do it:

We have attended international trade shows which have led to actions; Medica Dusseldorf and BIO Chicago generated over 100 meetings, 50 call reports and 30 leads, three of which have commenced activity. This was helped greatly by having Dr Roxana Carare on the Southampton team at BIO, who is a leading Alzheimer’s worker and was able to generate significant new industrial traction there.

In June we held a UIST-led conference in Southampton – “Bench to Clinic: partnership with Health & Pharma” –which highlighted capabilities to internal staff and external partners. The BIA’s Steve Bates was one of our panellists.

  • With 100 guests planned, over 150 turned-up and were successfully engaged
  • The event received significant press and blog coverage

We’re now looking at expanding the UIST concept nationally and internationally. Romania sees the UIST concept as a way to enhance international investment! So we are seeking EU structural funding to implement this and to explore other international partners.

If you are interested in working with the Health & Pharma UIST you can contact Karl Simpson  or Brigitte Lavoie. The BIA’s upcoming Bioscience Forum and evening Autumn Reception on 10 October in London provide ideal opportunities to extend and strengthen your network and catch up on the sector’s latest developments. 

This morning (Tuesday 17 September) the BIA helped host a senior-level roundtable discussion at Liberal Democrat party conference discussing the question “Life sciences and the NHS: friends or foes?”. The attendees were joined by Paul Burstow MP, a recent Liberal Democrat health Minister, and Jeremy Purvis, former Member of the Scottish Parliament and newly announced Peer.

To discuss the theme attendees were drawn from right across the life sciences spectrum from industry to medical research charities and from GP representatives to patient representative groups. The BIA worked with other trade bodies BIVDA, ABPI, ABHI and AMRC to host the event at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

The attendees heard from three speakers each outlining a case study that spoke to the theme of the breakfast – do the NHS and life sciences work together as effectively as possible? The case studies spoke to the wide range of initiatives underway to tackle that very point and the breadth and depth of integration needed to improve patient outcomes.

Shona Brearley, National Programme Manager at SHARE, outlined that new initiative which aims to connect patients more effectively with research they may be suitable and eligible to participate in. Based in Scotland, the SHARE initiative has had a successful start delivering key metrics such as first global patients recruited to trials in a time effective manner. The programme has buy-in from senior policymakers and NHS infrastructure allowing for an effective, transparent and consensual use of patient data to ensure individuals hear about clinical research they might wish to participate in.

Wajid Shafique, of Alere, spoke about that company’s efforts to reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed to patients given the rising and serious issue of anti-microbial resistance in the UK and globally. Attendees heard how a quick and simple diagnostic test could help prevent unnecessary prescriptions – a particularly relevant topic given the government’s recently announced Anti-Microbial Strategy.

Finally, Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK, spoke about their Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centre. The centre seeks to work in the translational space collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure an effective and streamlined approach to clinical research and development, based in part upon work taken forward with the Translational Research Partnerships initiative.

Attendees were able to discuss a range of issues with the policymakers in the room about the use of patient data and the resource the UK has at its disposal through the NHS, incentives for ongoing research and development and aspects of the clinical research infrastructure that is in place in the UK. A theme running throughout the conversation was the need for continued and genuine collaboration between the various parts of the life sciences ecosystem, including the NHS, to ensure the UK makes the most of the resources at its potential and to, ultimately, seek improved clinical outcomes.