Archives for the month of: January, 2014

Kit Malthouse at BIA event

We have another incredibly busy week coming up at the BIA. Thursday is the busiest day of our year. First we have Parliament Day, and this year more than 30 member company CEOs will be meeting with more than 20 senior politicians and civil servants. Second, that evening is our 18th Annual Gala Dinner. This year’s event has attracted the biggest attendance ever, so it’s shaping up to be a great evening even if we will be a cosier than usual. I look forward to seeing you there.

Last Tuesday I attended the Empower Access to Medicines campaign meeting to discuss speeding up access to medicines for patients most in need. I was pleased to hear Department of Health Minister Earl Howe’s thoughts on government’s plans for introducing an Early Access to Medicines scheme, which is something the BIA has long campaigned for, and that their thinking was “at an advanced stage” with “active discussion across Whitehall” about the introduction of a new “promising innovation medicine” designation as part of their proposed scheme. The MHRA later confirmed their plans to BioCentury.

On Thursday we co-hosted, with Consilium Strategic Communications, Panmure Gordon and Pinsent Masons, an event to showcase some of the exciting privately owned biotech companies in the UK to potential generalist public market investors. The aim of the event was to provide the wider investor community with further insight and understanding of the quality of firms, science and management teams in the sector. Kit Malthouse, London’s Deputy Mayor for Business (pictured above), provided a great introduction and highlighted the opportunities for investors in our strategically vital sector. The six presenting companies, Creabilis, Cytox, Endomagnetics, Glide Pharma, Prosonix and Redx Pharma, showed the strength and variety of busineeses growing in the UK at the moment. We are considering doing more in this area and I’d welcome member feedback on how we can do this optimally.

Also on Thursday, the BIA, along with our LifeSciencesUK partners ABHI, ABPI and BIVDA, published a report on the government’s performance in the first two years of its Strategy for UK Life Sciences. The review found that eight out of the 13 initiatives reviewed have made notable progress towards the actions and commitments set out in the original strategy, but there is still much more work to do to meet the strategy’s original objectives. From the biotech point of view, the Biomedical Catalyst has been well received by companies across the bioscience sector, the Cell Therapy Catapult is helping cell therapy organisations a translate early stage research into commercially viable and investable therapies and the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre will provide a valuable resource for the development of new technologies. However, the failure to introduce a fully funded Early Access to Medicines Scheme, which will allow UK patients to benefit from the most promising new treatments, needs to be addressed immediately.

Dan Mahony of Polar Capital joined me for my January member webinar last week. Dan provided an expert recap of the previous week’s JP Morgan Conference and trends to watch for 2014. If you didn’t catch the webinar or would like to watch it again, it is here.

Best
Steve

Steve Bates chats with Dan Mahony, Fund Manager at Polar Capital, about his reflections on the JP Morgan Conference.

Steve  Bates, BIA CEOThis morning I attended the Empower Access to Medicines campaign meeting to discuss speeding up access to medicines for patients most in need.

It was great to hear Department of Health Minister Earl Howe’s thoughts on government’s plans for introducing an Early Access to Medicines scheme, which is something the BIA has long campaigned for.

I was particularly pleased to hear that government thinking was “at an advanced stage” with “active discussion across Whitehall” about the introduction of a new “promising innovation medicine” designation as part of their proposed scheme.

Earl Howe explained that the UK government recognises the success of “breakthrough therapy” designation in the United States over the past 18 months and hopes that the new UK designation would provide a similar boost for innovative therapies developed in the UK. We’ve seen the importance of “breakthrough therapy” designation at the FDA on investor sentiment and the speed of drug approval in the USA, so it would great for companies in our sector to see this real policy innovation from the UK government.

I think that such a “promising innovation medicine” designation would enable companies to signal in a straightforward way to potential patients and investors that they were adopting the speediest and most efficient regulatory process and had mapped-out and would utilise the most appropriate route to work with NHS centres of excellence and Academic Health Science Networks to ensure timely adoption and usage of a new therapy.

In addition to its potential to significantly accelerate designated treatments to those patients who need them, the designation is likely to have a positive effect on the companies developing the products and on the investment community’s perception of those companies.

I believe the “promising innovation medicine” designation could prove more valuable than the FDA’s “breakthrough therapy” designation because it is likely to be linked with a process that delivers reimbursement via an Early Access to Medicines scheme. Medicines receiving the “promising innovation medicine” designation will be on the fast track for the most efficient regulatory engagement with the MHRA using all the existing flexibilities available and then given VIP access into the NHS system through the appropriate centres of excellence.

The combination of the “promising innovation medicine” designation and an Early Access to Medicines scheme should enable NHS patients in the UK to be amongst the first in the world to benefit from new therapies and ensure the UK is a world leading location to start, build and develop the biotech companies that deliver such breakthroughs.

I have reason to be optimistic.

BIA reception at JP Morgan conference January 2014

It was great to see so many members in and around the JP Morgan conference in San Francisco last week. Thanks to those of you who said the highlight was our reception with AstraZeneca and MedImmune on Wednesday night at the Old Mint. With over 100 members attending and 400 guests it was a great opportunity to make crucial global investor contacts, as well as catch up with old friends. There was certainly an upbeat mood across the week, which I am confident will come back with us across the Atlantic. Once again it was possible to follow events through social media and I hope that my tweets added something to the conversation. For my monthly webinar tomorrow (Tuesday 21 Jan) at 11.00am I will be joined by Dan Mahony, Fund Manager at Polar Capital Partners, and we will provide some analysis and reflections on both the JP Morgan and Biotech Showcase 2014 conferences. Register for the webinar on the BIA website.

In the US, investor confidence in biotech is high at the moment and we are seeing signs of that confidence returning for UK investors – according to BioCentury their UK biotech index rose 62% last year, its fifth straight year of growth. We have a great story to tell and this Thursday the BIA will be co-hosting, with Consilium Strategic Communications, Panmure Gordon and Pinsent Masons, an event to showcase some of the exciting unlisted biotech companies in the UK to potential generalist public market investors.

Grant funding is one significant way biotech businesses can gain non-dilutive funds. The European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme has €15bn of funds to distribute over the next two years. The European Commission is currently seeking independent experts to help evaluate proposals for EU funding and for other activities such as monitoring, programme evaluation and policy development. Interested candidates are invited to file their application as soon as possible in preparation for the first project proposal evaluations.

Last week George Freeman MP, who was the government’s life sciences advisor until late last year, published his Fresh Start report on The EU impact on the UK Life Science sector. In his well researched report George is right to point out that the EU is seen as an enlightened and progressive region for investing in biomedical research and that EU membership gives UK-based life science companies access to the single market and a uniform regulatory system for the development and approval of therapies. The report is right to identify that through its presence in the EU institutions, the UK is able to exert some influence over both EU and also global rules, although it has not always done so successfully. We support the report’s call for more effective influence from the UK within the EU to shape the EU’s response to new technologies. However the UK government need not look to Brussels to boost the life science sector in the UK. It could help life sciences companies in the UK by introducing a fully-funded early access to medicines scheme (which is within national competence).

Last week we published a summary of our parliamentary and policy impact in the final quarter of 2013. Highlights of which include Boris Johnson’s well-received speech at our annual UK Bioscience Forum, and the launch of our Cell Therapy and RegenMed Advisory Committee’s brochure highlighting the opportunities for potential investors in the UK’s regenerative medicine and cell therapy industry. The document also highlights some of the meetings with policymakers that have taken place and our responses to consultations such as the Financial Conduct Authority’s examination of crowdfunding regulation.

Today the BBSRC and the TSB launched their Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst programme. This Catalyst, which has £45m to distribute in two funding rounds over the next year, is modeled on the Biomedical Catalyst and will support major integrated research projects involving collaborations between academic and business communities that will offer clear commercial potential. Projects involving biopharmaceutical manufacturing are covered in this programme. There are five funding streams now open: early-stage feasibility studies, industrial research, late-stage pre-experimental feasibility studies, late-stage experimental development and early-stage translation. There will be briefings about the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst in London on 3 February and York on 12 February. Register interest before 7 May.

Finally, I am delighted to say that we now have over a quarter of our corporate member companies participating in our business solutions programme. Through the BIA business solutions programme these members are making significant savings on lab suppliers, insurance and office supplies. Most of the companies are also utilising the excellent services of our partner Amici Procurement Services. If you are interested in learning more about the programme, please contact Karen Chandler-Smith.

Best,
Steve

Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco

Happy New Year and welcome back. I – and I suspect many of you – are in San Francisco this week for the global curtain raising event for healthcare finance that is the JP Morgan conference and its associated satellite events like the Biotech Showcase and the myriad of one-to-ones and receptions. I have blogged some thoughts on the week and think there are a couple of key events when many of the UK contingent traveling will gather:

  • On Monday evening UKTI and Scottish Development International hold a reception from 1800 to 2000 at the Merchants Exchange Club, 75 Leidesdorff Street, San Francisco CA94104
  • On Wednesday the BIA reception, co-hosted by AstraZeneca and MedImmune, from 17.00-21.00 at The Old Mint, 88 5th Street, San Francisco, CA94103. Please email me or Chris Yochim if you would like to attend.

Just before Christmas the EU Committee of Permanent Representatives endorsed the political agreement reached by the Lithuanian EU Council Presidency and the European Parliament, on the compromise text of the proposed EU Clinical Trials Regulation. The compromise text looks set to not deliver on the initial goal, set by the European Commission when it launched the process in July 2012, of making the EU a more attractive location to conduct clinical trials. While the deal certainly marks a milestone in simplifying the rules for conducting clinical trials in the EU, even the European Commission conceded that it had hoped for a more ambitious approach in line with its original proposal. I fear that the compromise in extending the timelines for approval fails to improve the attractiveness of Europe and the UK as a location for global clinical trials. This means UK patients stand to miss out on the chance to participate in developing the therapies of the future.

In December the BBSRC announced funding for the 13 collaborative Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB) which aim to boost interaction between the academic research base and industry and promote the translation of research into benefits for the UK. I was delighted that the Bioprocessing Network: BioProNET, which the BIA had supported, has been funded. I look forward to working with Mark Smales at the University of Kent and Alan Dickson at The University of Manchester as they take this project forward.

Before Christmas I signed the MRC’s letter to The Times criticising Ofqual’s proposals that would see practical skills no longer contributing towards a student’s final grade in A-level chemistry, physics and biology. Science is a practical discipline and the failure to engage students in practical skills will result in large numbers of A-level students being ill-equipped for undergraduate study, higher apprenticeships or jobs in science and engineering.

This year’s New Year Honours list recognised a number of people in the healthcare and life sciences sector. Two that are particularly well known to the BIA and our members are Iain Gray, CEO at the Technology Strategy Board, who received a CBE for his services to science, technology and innovation, and Professor Douglas Kell, former CEO of the BBSRC, who received a CBE for his services to science and research.

I hope to catch up with some of you in San Francisco.

Best
Steve

Union Square and Cable Car in San Francisco

I am looking forward to seeing many of you in person at the global curtain raising event for healthcare finance that is the JP Morgan conference and its associated satellite events like the Biotech Showcase and the myriad of one-to-ones and receptions in San Francisco next week.

Meet up with UK colleagues
From my perspective there are three key moments when many of the UK contingent traveling will gather.

  1. On Sunday night Tony Jones of OneNucleus and I will be be in the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel, 495 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, from 1930 for a couple of hours to get over our jet lag. Do feel free to join us.
  2. On Monday evening UKTI and Scottish development international hold a reception from 1800 to 2000 at the Merchants Exchange Club, 75 Leidesdorff Street, San Francisco CA94104
  3. And finally on Wednesday the BIA reception, co-hosted by AstraZeneca and MedImmune, from 17.00-21.00 at The Old Mint, 88 5th Street, San Francisco, CA94103. Please email me or Chris Yochim if you would like to attend.

Both the JP Morgan and Biotech Showcase events and many of the accompanying receptions are in the Union Square area of San Francisco. There are lots of place to eat around Union Square, but if you are in a hurry, it might be worth walking a couple of blocks away to find less busy cafes and restaurants.

Worth reading on the plane

It will be my first time experiencing these events, so I have spoken with people that have been before and taken on comments from my webinar before Christmas to provide what I hope is a useful guide. BioPartner has a list of all the UK companies attending the Biotech Showcase.

I’m not the only one thinking about this, as Xconomy’s Luke Timmerman has written a helpful guide with “10 Tips for Maximizing the JP Morgan Healthcare Experience“, although former Bloomberg journalist, now at WCG, Brian Reid has a few differing views and Bruce Booth of Atlas Venture suggests that you be aware of the “Top 10 Little White Lies Told At The JP Morgan Healthcare Conference“.

Follow what’s happening on social media whether you are there or not
The JP Morgan event has been well covered on Twitter in recent years and will probably be the same this year – follow the hashtag #JPM14 to keep up. The Biotech Showcase will also be covered at hashtag #BTS14.

If you just want to follow a few people some of the busiest #JPM14 tweeters are likely to include:

There is also a Tweetup on the Monday evening if you’d like to meet some of them in person.

Transport
The easiest way to get from San Francisco airport to the city is on the BART train. If there are a group of you a taxi may be cheaper, but do not bother it you arrive near rush hour as it can take a long time to get into the city centre.

If you are planning on using buses, trams and cable cars, in the city there are tourist passes available.

If you are planning on more widespread travel in the Bay Area – including down to Silicon Valley, and don’t want to scrabble for change for every journey, consider getting a Clippercard, which works like an Oystercard, and is valid on BART, San Francisco MTA transport and Caltrain.

There is a helpful route planning website for public transport in the bay area.