Archives for the month of: June, 2014

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Keith Thompson, CEO of the Cell Therapy Catapult, reflects on the official opening of their new facilities by Dr Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, last week.

It’s been a hectic few months here at the Cell Therapy Catapult – culminating in the official opening of our new facilities on Wednesday by Dr Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. In his speech, as well as highlighting the potential of cell therapy across a range of therapeutic areas, Dr Cable discussed how the ‘Catapult movement was gaining momentum’. That’s certainly a view we share, as we assess the progress that we and our fellow Catapults have made since inception. You’ll soon be able to read more about our achievements so far and plans for 2014/15 in our annual review, expected to be released in the next few weeks.

During his visit to the Cell Therapy Catapult, Dr Cable was given a tour of our laboratories, and certainly seemed to enjoy it. As well as showcasing our range of technical capability and expertise (with a fantastic view of the London skyline), we find that the tour really helps to bring our work to life for many visitors. Not only does it exemplify the business model, but also shows how busy we are with our collaborators. Work is ongoing on the ReNeuron and WT1 leukaemia cell therapy projects, for example. It was a great boost to us to have coverage of the latter on the day of our opening event in The Times newspaper – principal investigator Dr Emma Morris of UCL made some great comments therein on the potential impact of the therapy on patients. This kind of coverage helps to remind us of what cell therapy is all about.

CTC_1As I mentioned in my comments at the opening event, our laboratory facilities are based around an ‘infinitely reconfigurable’ pod concept. We will be building on many of the concepts used in the development of the labs in the new large scale Cell Therapy Manufacturing Centre, funding for which we were of course awarded in March. With a project manager in place and a strong delivery team building up, work on the new Centre is well underway. CBRE is the site selection agent, and you can read the User Requirement Brief and site selection process on our website here.

Many BIA members have seen our new facilities, but if you haven’t and would like a tour, do please get in touch. We’d also like to thank you for the interesting and supportive feedback you gave to the BIA secretariat as part of the Hauser consultation/review of the Technology Strategy Board’s Catapult programme. As part of his review, Dr Hauser is visiting each of the seven Catapults, talking to their staff and hearing testimony from various stakeholders. In a busy June, we welcomed him to the Cell Therapy Catapult the week before the official opening, and he also seemed to enjoy his lab tour very much.

Thanks also to BIA members for your input in our recent cell therapy perception survey. We hope to share the results with you soon.

Our first annual review will showcase what we’ve done, and our plans for 2014/15 and beyond. These kinds of documents provide great snapshots of progress, and we’re really pleased that it highlights the portfolio of projects we’re developing with the UK and international cell therapy community. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it while you bask in the delights of the UK summer.

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This week’s post features Steve Bates, CEO of the BioIndustry Association, talking to Nigel Borshell of PharmaTelevision about the BIA’s involvement in the European Adaptive Licensing pilot project and the UK’s Early Access to Medicines Scheme, and how these initiatives can help companies find a new path to market or way to bring their drugs forward which will ultimately benefit patients.

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

Latest_BMC_data_June2014_600_300I write this week’s update from the BIO conference in San Diego where over 450 Brits are registered, making us the largest overseas community at this key global event. If you are looking to make sense of it from a UK perspective the recent BIA webinar is now online (sorry for the poor audio quality) and our press release is here. I look forward to seeing many members over the next few days, as well as sharing a fireside chat with Science Minister David Willetts later today.

So it’s timely to have been able to publish our updated analysis of the latest funding rounds released by the Biomedical Catalyst as a curtain raiser. These latest Biomedical Catalyst awards, (Round 4 early and late stage studies and Round 5 feasibility studies, as well as further round 3 academic-led awards) represent an additional £48 million investment in biomedical research in the UK. Companies including Autifony Therapeutics, Biosceptre UK, C4X Discovery, Mission Therapeutics and Oxford BioMedica are amongst the 33 UK companies who have received business-led awards this time.

It’s always good to see BIA members getting recognition for their achievements and there have been plenty in the last week. Whether it’s GW Pharma or Horizon Discovery at the Mediscience awards last Thursday or NovaBiotics’ CEO Dr Deborah O’Neil being named EY Scotland Entrepreneur of 2014. Pioneering UK inventor, Professor Christofer Toumazou won the prestigious European Inventor Award 2014 for Research for his work jointly developed with Imperial College London and DNA Electronics Ltd, allowing quick analysis of DNA, both inside and outside a laboratory, using a microchip that can easily be inserted into a USB stick. All of their success helps keep our sector well regarded in the media, policy and public eye. Congratulations. (And if you haven’t already, do consider applying for the Europabio ‘Most Innovative European Biotech SME Award‘, which is open until 1 July).

There were two interesting developments in the policy arena in our space last week. Firstly the summer reception of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research published a report – ‘Medical research: What’s it worth?‘ – commissioned by the Academy of Medical Sciences, Cancer Research UK, the Department of Health and the Wellcome Trust. The report finds that each pound invested in cancer-related research generates a continuous stream of benefits equal to earning 40 pence a year thereafter here. And this was illustrated by some excellent examples of collaborative advances in medical research in a new booklet ‘A Healthy Future for UK Medical Research‘, which features great research case studies including several with which BIA members have been involved.

The second development was the Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech at the Global Dementia Legacy event. This is an interesting read and I recommend you take a look. It is interesting to see a Prime Minister so committed to the sector and tasking the Office of Life Sciences (OLS) with responding to the key challenges of biomedical R&D. His endorsement of orphan drug legislation that, “new incentives will be critical in overcoming the market failure that perilously undermines research and drug development” and his proposal that “looking at extending the length of patents so that companies which successfully invest in a new drug may have a longer period of exclusivity in reaping the rewards for that investment” is a consideration that few in the sector have hitherto seen as being realistically on the political agenda. I look forward to member feedback on the speech and we will engage with the OLS as they develop mechanisms to move this agenda forward.

Have a good week,

Steve

Following David Cameron’s pledge last week to increase the UK’s efforts in dementia research, this week’s post features Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity who specialise in finding preventions, causes, treatments and a cure for dementia.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister pledged a new drive by the UK to discover new drugs and treatment that could slow down the onset of dementia or even deliver a cure by 2025. He tasked the Office for Life Sciences to bring forward proposals on topics such as patent extensions, earlier access to new drugs for patients, greater research collaboration and facilitating much high-levels of investment.

Alongside a £16 million public-private partnership announced by the Medical Research Council, involving the world’s largest study group for dementia, Alzheimer’s Research UK has launched their “Defeat Dementia” campaign, a major five year fundraising and investment drive to raise £100 million to fund a new phase of dementia research.

The following video from Alzheimer’s Research UK examines some of the genetic risk factors in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

Roch Doliveaux, CEO UCB, addressing the invitees at Slough celebration

Roch Doliveaux, CEO UCB, addressing the invitees at Slough celebration

Following their 10 year anniversary celebrations earlier this month, Scott Fleming, Director of Communications at UCB, describes how the company has evolved since they first acquired Celltech in 2004.

Ten years ago UCB embarked on a transformational journey to become a specialty biopharmaceutical leader following the acquisition of the British biotech company Celltech in 2004.  On June 2nd UCB celebrated this milestone, as well as ten years of scientific excellence, ten years of collaboration with clinical research networks and academia and ten years of bringing new medicines to patients.

At the time of the acquisition, Celltech was Europe’s leading biotechnology company, with an impressive history in pioneering advanced antibody technologies and encouraging collaboration between industry and academia.  By combining UCB’s small-molecule chemistry expertise and Celltech’s antibody knowledge, UCB built a powerful R&D engine.  Now in 2014 that powerful R&D engine remains at the heart of UCB’s activities with the goal of harnessing scientific breakthroughs and bringing innovation to the UK.

From £84m invested in 2003 to £142m in 2013, UCB has significantly increased its annual R&D expenditure, becoming one of the top investors in UK life sciences R&D. In fact, in 2013 UCB had the highest R&D expenditure per employee amongst top European companies across all sectors.  Overall, UCB invests approximately 25% of its revenues each year in global R&D, and a large proportion of this investment is dedicated to our UK research activities.

UCB scientists using the new antibody discovery platform

UCB scientists using the new antibody discovery platform

Today, UCB employs more than 700 staff in the UK and Ireland across our five facilities, including our immunology research centre of excellence and head office for the UK & Irish commercial organisation.  When appropriate, UCB’s highly-skilled scientists push the boundaries of their expertise through strategic collaborations with academia and other cutting-edge companies, resulting in over 150 collaborative R&D relationships.

Operating collaboratively (within a super network) is core to UCB’s operations, as we believe it allows us to maximise collective resources and knowledge.  Through great collaborations, UCB has brought new medicines to thousands of patients and delivered an impressive early- and late-stage pipeline.

Over the next 10 years, we hope that UCB’s open innovation approach to drug discovery and our cutting-edge programmes and technologies will have profound implications for biology, medicine and ultimately transform millions of lives.

UCB staff and guests preparing for internal celebration of the 10th anniversary

UCB staff and guests preparing for internal celebration of the 10th anniversary

C0054804 Equipment at UK Biobank, Cheshire

There has been more strong financing news from member companies this week with news of Convergence Pharmaceuticals and Abzena ‘going public about going public’ with intended AIM floats in London. We’ll watch with interest as plans progress, and both companies will be represented at our CEO and Investor Forum next month.  At the same time AstraZeneca’s deal with Synairgen shows continued pharma confidence in the excellence of UK biotech.

It was great to see our sector strongly represented in this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours. Louise Makin, CEO of member company BTG was honoured with a Damehood, and many of you will remember working with her on the life science input into the government’s EU business taskforce last year, which included strong endorsement for our position on the Clinical Trial Regulation. Sue Dunkerton, the Director of the Knowledge Transfer Network, was honoured for services to Health and Engineering and Shamila Nebhrajani, former Chief Executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities (with whom we shared our Parliament Day networking lunch this year) was also honoured for services to  Medical Research. David Williams, Professor of Healthcare Engineering at Loughborough University, was awarded an OBE for services to science and engineering, and Tim Peakman, Deputy Chief Executive of the UK Biobank was also honoured for services to  Medical Research –and we have a timely blog on the UK’s biobanking expertise to suit the occasion.

I was heartened to see several people who have played key roles in animal research recognised, including Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, Scientific Director of the Moredun Research Institute, and Martin Walsh, lately Head of Policy at the Home Office’s Animals in Science Regulation Unit.  Professor Colin Blakemore was knighted and I agreed with Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, who said:  “I am delighted that Professor Colin Blakemore, former Chief Executive of the MRC, has been awarded a knighthood. Professor Blakemore is a highly regarded researcher and has served UK science over many years extremely well in a large number of ways. His support for the use of animals in research has been extraordinarily brave; he led the way on openness at a time when this was at great personal risk to himself and his family.” It is a strong reminder to us all of the need to make the case for animals in research, and I feel it’s important to continue to impress upon policymakers the importance of a supportive environment for clinical research to flourish in the UK.

I was in Brussels last week for the National Associations Council of Europabio. We discussed the fast moving European Medicines Agency (EMA) position on clinical trial transparency – the latest from the EMA management board is here, and there looks set to be a continuing discussion on important details that we will stay close to. I was personally heartened to see a deal on nationalisation on GM also progressed by the EU council after significant work by the UK government. I hope this is of particular benefit to SMEs based around our excellent research base in the UK in places like the John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Institute.

Next week the global biotech focus will be in San Diego for this years’ BIO. Over 450 Brits are heading out for this year’s convention making us the largest overseas delegation, which is testament to the UK strength in our sector. I look forward to seeing you at the UK Pavillion (perhaps for the crucial England vs Costa Rica game?) and if not I hope we will use our social media streams as a way of keeping on top of key UK news from the event.

Best,

Steve

Ahead of the BIO International Convention 2014 in San Diego, which runs from 23-26 June, this week’s sector video features Programme Co-chair, Magda Marquet, discussing the benefits of attending and exhibiting at the convention.

Further information and guidance on how to prepare for BIO 2014 can be found in our previous blog post by Karen Chandler-Smith.

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

UKBiobankAhead of an explanatory meeting event in London on the 26 June, Andrew Trehearne, Head of Communications at UK Biobank, explains more about the resource and why researchers should get involved.

Imagine a huge car assembly plant, where you get to design your own vehicle from a vast array of parts on display. It might seem implausible, but in the world of health research it is not such a far-fetched idea.

Indeed, UK Biobank is at the leading edge of a new kind of research revolution, much like the invention of the motorcar 130 years ago. The UK Biobank resource has been assembled over the past eight years to provide health researchers with a wide range of tools to undertake research on the most common – and sometimes intractable – diseases of the 21st century. From migraine and tinnitus to dementia, depression, bone disease and cancer, UK Biobank has taken as inspiration for its data collection the industrialised processes that were so important to the rise of the car. And that data on 500,000 participants who joined the project at 22 assessment centres in England, Scotland and Wales between 2006 and 2010 is just a finger touch away for bona fide researchers working on health related research in the public interest.

Equipment at UK Biobank, Cheshire

Robotics-driven equipment at UK Biobank, Cheshire. Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Automation has been key to the resource so far – from the storage of more than 10 million samples of blood, urine and saliva, to the systems for following health (such as cancer and death statistics) and now for analysing the thousands of eye photos, brain scans and other enhancements being developed. New technology, particularly online, means that UK Biobank can retain contact with many participants and ask them to help further with, say, additional information on diet and cognitive function. Genetic data and the results of a wide range of standard assays will be added to the mix over the coming year. The data are provided anonymously to scientists for specific research projects, once they have registered with the resource. Their results are also returned to UK Biobank when their study is completed, so that other scientists can benefit from them.

UK Biobank is funded primarily by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust charity. The resource is open access – so researchers from the UK and overseas, academia and industry can use it. Data and samples are available, as is the possibility of re-contacting participants, though special care will be taken when planning to use depletable resources.

A meeting is planned in London on 26 June 2014, at which it will be possible to find out much more about how to access the UK Biobank resource and the data it holds. The more it is used, and the longer it accrues data, the more valuable it becomes to the research community. So whether you are a Chrysler, Mercedes or a Ford of the research world, consider joining on the day, or follow the event via the website. Meanwhile feel free to take a look at the summary data contained within the UK Biobank Data Showcase or register to use the resource.

Equipment at UKBiobank, Cheshire

Robotics-driven equipment at UK Biobank, Cheshire. Credit: Wellcome Library, London