TAF_award_588_300Award winning – I’m delighted to report that the BIA’s Bioscience Forum won the Trade Association Forum (TAF) Conference of the Year Award at the TAF Best Practice Awards last week. Thank you to Cathy and Karen for all their hard work and for you as members for making it the best trade association event in the UK last year.

It was great to see so many members in good form at Lingfield Park last week for our CEO and Investor Forum. I thought the exchange of views on topics including public markets, private funding, grants, government incentives, market access and collaborations, were high quality and very relevant. It was good to get the latest on initiatives which the BIA has supported, such as MedCity and the Francis Crick Institute (where David Roblin as the new COO will ensure an industry translational focus). It was also interesting to hear that the precise remit of the planned Precision Medicine Catapult is still being refined and that CPI are now planning a ‘Biologics factory of the future’ to go alongside the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre in Darlington.

The evening session on whether the UK biotech sector needs a vibrant public market in London brought about a dynamic discussion, with attendees noting that all public markets have their remits and that companies which are favoured by the London market – such as Circassia or Horizon on AIM – are not the same beasts as ones which can thrive and access finance on NASDAQ – like GW or Oxford Immunotec.

“What a bioscience CEO needs to know about market access today for success tomorrow”, chaired by Dr Nick Crabb, Programme Director of Scientific Affairs at the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, NICE, was timely and insightful – especially as investors now consider market access planning on a par with regulatory plans. In order to continue investment in projects, big pharma or follow-on investors now expect a developed ‘value story’ at all stages.

I found the interactive session on leading and driving collaboration really helpful, chaired by Executive Coach Sarah Brummitt, with varied insights from tech firm Integrella, head-hunters Odgers Berndtson, global company GE Healthcare Life Sciences and the charity sector represented by the AMRC.

I left the Forum on Friday afternoon with a clear sense that the future is looking brighter – thanks to both the integrated series of financial and fiscal supports available from the UK government in their various guises, and the new-found interest in the sector from non-government sources, either privately funded or through the public markets. My thanks go to all who made the event such a success, but in particular to those members who gave freely of their time and expertise by chairing or participating in panels.

From a personal perspective it was great to see the importance of much of the policy work we have been engaged in over recent years that has come to fruition in the first half of this year. We look forward to hearing first-hand views on the Biomedical Catalyst, the new early access and adaptive licensing schemes, and the extension to R&D tax credits.

The Science Industry Partnership, launched last week, will offer SMEs vouchers for workforce development grants for training needs, which is a key win for BIA members. You can read a guest blog on the SIP today and we will provide more details in coming weeks.

Last week we had a good discussion on accessing European funding for our sector, hosted in the House of Commons by Rt Hon Michael Moore MP – stay tuned to our blog for more details of the discussion. Therefore I’m happy to highlight the launch of the European Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in several areas, including the second Innovative Medicines Initiative PPP known as IMI 2. The first call for proposals for IMI 2 features two topics: Translational approaches to disease modifying therapy of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) and Discovery and validation of novel endpoints in dry age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Take a look at our funding opportunities page for further information.

Also last week the global International Council of Biotechnology Associations was officially announced – the BIA are proud to be a founder member of this six continent organisation. The press release is available here.

I’m watching the Abbvie/Shire discussions with interest, as well as the Cabinet reshuffle speculation, and will update members as appropriate soon.