Hans-Georg Eichler, Earl Howe and Steve Bates

Hans-Georg Eichler (European Medicines Agency), Earl Howe (Department of Health) and Steve Bates (BioIndustry Association)

Ensuring that members are amongst the first to get a full understanding of the new opportunities that regulatory reform offers is, for me, an important way the BIA adds value. That’s why it was great to start this morning with a half day briefing on the EMA’s new adaptive licensing pilot, pictured above. This explainer event in partnership with the ABPI and CASMI brought members together with the EMA, members of government, MHRA and NICE, NHS and other bioscience companies to learn more about how the pilot will work. I hope that by explaining the detail at events like today’s (and our Early Access to Medicines Scheme event a few weeks ago), we can help member companies to be amongst the first to seize the opportunity in these innovations.

Last week saw some good news for the sector in terms of fund raising, with Epidarex Capital (formerly RockSpring) successfully raising over £47.5 million to lead investments in early-stage life science companies including university spin-outs. King’s College London and three top Scottish research universities were key investors in the fund, and it was especially interesting to note that Eli Lilly were a key investor – their first first investment in a UK venture fund – which is indicative of the strength of the UK sector.

Puridify, who were the 2013 winners of Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable’s OneStart award, raised £850,000 seed financing led by Imperial Innovations and SR One (GSK’s venture capital fund). I delighted that Puridify founder and CEO Oliver Hardick shares his experience of the journey over the last 12 months in an inspirational blog post which is well worth a read.

On the government front, John Jeans (Chairman of Imanova and Chair of the Trustee Board of MRC Technology) has been appointed alongside Professor John Bell and Chris Brinsmead as a life science champion. Many of you had the chance to chat to John at our recent networking event in City Hall, so he comes into the role with a useful understanding of members’ needs and we look forward to working with him in his new role.

I was also reminded last week of how long-term our industry can be when a product I worked on whilst at Genzyme was finally approved by NICE. Alemtuzumab is yet another product discovered and developed in the UK which gained NICE approval last week and now becomes available to patients on the NHS. It’s a real bench-to-bedside success story for UK life sciences from discovery at Cambridge University, through trials in the UK to a product that now stands to improve treatment options for MS patients.

Our sector video this week is from the Cell Therapy Catapult, which ties in to a couple of points. Last week the BIA submitted our response, led by member input, to Hermann Hauser’s review of the medium term strategy of Catapult centres. You told us that although it’s early days the Catapults have been a force for good so far, and that to be as effective as possible in supporting the translation of UK innovation they need to remain focused and well funded. You can read the response in full or get a taster here. The Cell Therapy Catapult is currently gauging the sector’s thoughts on cell therapy and priorities for the area – if you haven’t already completed the survey it closes at the end of this week.

It’s approaching BIO time of year again. If you’re going I look forward to seeing you there with the UK delegation (more details to follow later), and I’m confident that our BIO webinar on 12 June will be the most useful overview of the event and help you get real value from what is always a hectic week! Register to hear and discuss some top tips for maximising your time at BIO.

I also look forward to seeing many of you at two free-to-attend networking events this Thursday 5 June. Join us for Breakfast with the BIA from 8-10am in Oxford to catch up on our manifesto process, or come along to Hays Life Sciences offices in London from 6:30pm to hear about trends in life science employment and salaries as they launch a unique publication, the ‘War for Talent’. Both are bookable here.