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.