Archives for the month of: March, 2014

Stevenage_breakfast_600_300The positive run of UK biotechs accessing the London public market continued last week as Horizon Discovery traded for the first time on AIM, following Circassia’s listing earlier this month. I look forward to hearing their story at a BIA event in the coming months – but you can get a flavour from CEO Darrin Disley’s interview with CNBC.

It was also great to feel the optimistic mood in the room at our manifesto breakfast event in Stevenage, pictured above. Attendees discussed the potential of Easy Access IP to give university tech transfer offices improved opportunities to commercialise patents. It’s a collaborative project led by the University of Glasgow, King’s College London and the University of Bristol to promote new ways of sharing intellectual property (IP) and to adopt new approaches which make it easier for universities and industry to work together.

Tech transfer is a topic which has been on our radar lately, as many of you will have seen. As part of our life science manifesto development, we have been asking the sector for views on how well tech transfer works, and just last week the House of Commons announced an inquiry into business-university collaboration. We will be responding to the inquiry, focusing particularly on tech transfer, Catapult centres and the eight great technologies. If you have views you’d like us to represent, please get in touch with Zoe Freeman.

Empower, a campaign group set up by the late Les Halpin for improving access to medicines, held a parliamentary reception last week attended by patients’ families, alongside George Freeman MP and the Minister for Health Earl Howe. Empower welcomed the recent announcements of a UK Early Access to Medicines Scheme and an Adaptive Licensing Pilot in Europe and announced a medical innovation manifesto for patients, aiming to see patients having a greater voice in their treatment and to develop more adaptive pathways for clinical research and medical innovation.

Finally I am particularly looking forward to SynBioBeta this week, hosted at Imperial College in conjunction with the new Synthetic Biology Innovation and Knowledge Centre SynbiCITE. Following on from an academic focus and welcome reception on Wednesday, Thursday 3 April will be a business-focused day of panel discussions and talks from BIA members, startups, industry players, investors and partners in the growing synthetic biology ecosystem. I will be among those speaking and if you’re interested to attend, BIA members can register using code ‘PK232’ for a 20% discount.

Best,
Steve

Horizon Discovery’s CEO Darrin Disley appeared on CNBC’s SquawkBox Europe today to discuss the company’s IPO.

This week’s post features BIA member organisation Oxitec, a pioneering organisation specialising in the control of insects that spread disease and damage crops.

In a single year, there are 200-300 million cases of malaria and 50-100 million cases of dengue fever worldwide. So: Why haven’t we found a way to effectively kill mosquitos yet?

Hadyn Parry – Chief Executive Officer, Oxitec presents a fascinating solution: genetically engineering male mosquitos to make them sterile, and releasing the insects into the wild, to cut down on disease-carrying species.

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact Ryan Vaughan

Circassia listing on LSE

In the week that Circassia listed on the London Stock Exchange (pictured) I was pleased to see that there was much for the life science sector to cheer when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, set out the 2014 Budget. One of the most significant is the commitment of £55 million over five years to establish a large scale cell therapy manufacturing centre managed by the Cell Therapy Catapult. This meets one of the key recommendations in the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s report into regenerative medicines and is one of the things we had called for in our Budget submission. I would like to congratulate Keith Thompson and his team at the Cell Therapy Catapult for their work in making the case for the centre and I look forward to working alongside them as the centre develops.

The Chancellor also announced a number of other measures that should benefit companies in the bioscience sector including an increase in the R&D Tax Credit for loss making SMEs from 11% to 14.5%, making the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme permanent, doubling the annual investment allowance for companies to £500,000 and introducing changes to the rules for Enterprise Investment Scheme and Venture Capital Trusts. My monthly webinar on Thursday will provide an overview of our thoughts on the Budget.

Also on Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) launched its adaptive licensing pilot project and is inviting companies to participate. Adaptive licensing could be a possible way that patients with unmet medical need could get access to new medicines. The introduction of an adaptive licensing pilot project was a recommendation of the Expert Group on innovation in the regulation of healthcare and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has taken a leading role on this agenda. I would encourage members to respond to the Agency’s call for participation in the pilot project.

During National Science Week Understanding Animal Research launched its Open Labs project. The three-year programme will enable hundreds of school children to tour animal research facilities, meet scientists and veterinarians, and see the animals at the centre of the research. UCL was the first facility to open its doors to students and a further eight universities and research centres also took part during the week. I would encourage industry research labs to participate in the project.

Finally, we had a terrific response to our first manifesto question on the Biomedical Catalyst and I’d like to thank everyone who provided a clear steer to us about how to proceed with government on this important source of funding. Our second question is on technology transfer: Do you think the next government should take action to better align the incentives in tech transfer, including asking university and tech transfer offices to more actively consider IP ‘clearing houses’? You will have an early opportunity to discuss these and other issues at the next free-to-attend BIA breakfast networking meeting on Wednesday 26 March at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, Hertfordshire.

Best,
Steve

Budget case fromTreasuryThe Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, today set out the 2014 Budget – a “budget for a resilient economy”. In an announcement that saw significant changes to pensions, ISAs and an economic growth forecast revised up to 2.7% for 2014, there was also much for the life science sector to cheer. Confirming his commitment to science, the Chancellor stated that “If Britain isn’t leading the world in science and technology and engineering, then we are condemning our country to fall behind”.

£55 million to establish a large scale cell therapy manufacturing centre
As the BIA called for in our Budget submission and as recommended in the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s report into regenerative medicines, the government has committed £55 million to establishing a new UK Cell Therapy Manufacturing Centre. The Centre, expected to open in 2016/17, will be run by the Cell Therapy Catapult and will provide vital large-scale manufacturing facilities, helping the country to retain manufacturing activity, attract inward investment and boost exports.

Increase in the R&D Tax Credit for loss making SMEs from 11% to 14.5%
From April 2014, the Government will increase the rate of the payable credit to loss-making SMEs under the SME R&D tax credit scheme, from 11% to 14.5%. SME R&D tax relief allows companies to reduce their profits liable to corporation tax by 225% of qualifying R&D costs, so this change will result in eligible companies being able to convert larger sums of taxable losses into payable cash credit. R&D tax credits are vital to BIA members and form the bedrock of the government’s support to the sector. This policy continues year-on-year positive change actively called for by the BIA.

The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme has been made permanent
The government committed to make permanent the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), which has been beneficial for many BIA member organisations. The associated capital gains tax reinvestment relief will also remain a permanent feature of SEIS.

The annual investment allowance for companies has been doubled to £500,000
Annual investment allowance (AIA) will be doubled until the end of 2015, which means that 99.8% of businesses will receive 100% up-front relief on qualifying investments in plant and machinery.

EIS and VCTs consultation
The Chancellor made several references to ensuring that schemes such as Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) are used appropriately. To better target high-risk investment, government will change the eligibility criteria of venture capital schemes to avoid subsidising low-risk activities that already benefit from certain government programmes. Stakeholders will be consulted over summer 2014.
Government will also set a rate of 30% income tax relief for the Social Investment Tax Relief, in line with EIS and VCT.
In addition, the list of qualifying investments for ISAs will be extended to include peer-to-peer loans and the government said they will explore extending the list further to include debt securities offered via crowdfunding platforms. This in interesting as it ties in to the BIA’s call for Citizens’ Innovation Funds (CIFs), which would democratise investment and allow a greater pool of investors (not limited to those who can accredit themselves for EIS / SEIS) to support high-growth companies. The fact the government is considering eligibility of peer-to-peer crowdfunding for ISAs is a sign that they are getting serious about trusting savers. Indeed, Osborne, in relation to pensions, said he didn’t agree with the patronising view that people can’t be trusted with their money.

The Chancellor said that this Budget was for makers, doers and savers. A number of these initiatives should sit well with those in the bioscience community.

This week’s post features BIA member organisation Anthony Nolan, the UK’s blood cancer charity and bone marrow register.

The featured video narrated by Dr Christian Jessen, illustrates the fantastic work of Anthony Nolan in finding suitable donors for patients in need of bone marrow transplants. It specifically encourages young people to register due to their increased likelihood of being a suitable donor.

If you’re aged 16-30 you can join the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register online at http://www.anthonynolan.org/register.

Find out how else you can help save more lives at http://www.anthonynolan.org/8-ways.

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact Ryan Vaughan