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.