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.