I 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,