CEO and Investor Forum 2014_720x215V2Over Easter a rush of media coverage of our sector included a major story – GSK’s deal with Novartis – and some major speculation which was confirmed today – Pfizer’s bid for AstraZeneca (see this piece in the Guardian and more commentary in our sector news section). I’m delighted that GSK have promised to provide an update for our blog on what their deal means for our sector.

Elsewhere members have had a very busy week. In the City new BIA member Tiziana Life Sciences made a great debut on AIM, reversing into the shell of Alexander David Investments. This developer of novel molecules in the area of oncology more than doubled in price on opening, valuing the company at £23.3 million. Today the abolition of stamp duty on AIM-quoted shares comes into force, which should help to make the UK market more attractive still.

It was great also to be at UCB in Slough on Friday for the official opening of their new antibody development laboratories. It’s fantastic to see the commitment of UCB to developing the next generation of monoclonal antibodies here in the UK – and to see the role that R&D tax credits (which the BIA has tirelessly argued for) have played in helping the company make this investment here. But what is really exciting are UCB’s plans to enable researchers from outside the company work alongside their own scientists in the new facility. I’m sure we’ll here more on this in the coming weeks.

The two Catapults in our sector also continue to develop at pace. Ground was officially broken at the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre in the last weeks in Darlington and the Cell Therapy Catapult published an important overview of the growing UK cell therapy sector. We will be pleased to highlight the difference these schemes are making to UK biotech in our submission to the Hauser Review of Catapult Centres that we will submit to government shortly – any last minute inputs are welcome.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills released their update on the government’s Industrial Strategy last week (to surprisingly little fanfare). It was good to see the progress in biotech and life sciences well represented but I think it’s important to ensure the government stays focused on the long term nature of these structural interventions to reshape the UK economy. We will continue to press the case and the continuing need for focus on our sector and the UK’s science base.

I really enjoyed our BIA breakfast in Nottingham last week and the lively debate about whether there was a dearth of lab space for UK companies, which will help inform our manifesto development. One thing I was struck by is whether a lack of appropriate follow-on space is keeping some companies in incubator spaces which they should rightly have grown out of. Do let me know what you think and thanks to those who have also given views on how we might improve engagement with the clinical infrastructure in the NHS.

The coming week is a busy one. Today we’ve hosted over 100 people at our explainer event on the Early Access to Medicines Scheme with the ABPI – don’t worry if you weren’t there, as we will be producing a definitive guide to Early Access as a publication in the coming weeks. I look forward to seeing over 200 of you on Thursday for our inaugural lecture with Dr Stephen Minger at Bloomberg, which promises to be an exciting evening. We also taking bookings now for our CEO & Investor Forum in July.

Because of the Bank Holiday next week our next Newscast will be published on Tuesday 6th May.