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An action packed week at Westminster saw an extensive reshuffle amongst Conservative ministers, with David Willetts leaving the Government and George Freeman joining it as Minister for Life sciences – you can read more of my thoughts on the reshuffle in my blog post.

It was great to see that Greg Clark’s first action as David Willetts’ replacement as Minister for Universities and Science was to announce a “war cabinet” of all the research councils and the Wellcome Trust to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The Medical Research Council (MRC) will lead this unprecedented cross-council initiative to tackle AMR, known as the Antimicrobial Resistance Funders Forum.

Meanwhile, the MRC along with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are consulting on existing and emerging research skills and capabilities that are ‘vulnerable’ and may require further support – if you want to feed in your views by 5 September, the survey is here.

But perhaps the most strategic news in our sector is that the Boards of Abbvie and Shire reached agreement on the terms of a recommended combination on Friday. The deal between two BIA members, which valued Shire at £32 billion pounds, is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, investors in Shire – a UK biotech stock – have done well and made money. This should be a cause for celebration for all life science companies seeking to engage the London markets in investing in our sector, and a story we need to tell for years to come. Secondly, a new global biopharmaceutical company with UK innovation at its heart – in the form of Humira, a drug developed in the UK – will now be domiciled here, providing an opportunity for significant UK engagement. We as a UK community have an opportunity to show them the ongoing excellence in innovation and encourage them to invest further in our ecosystem. Thirdly, the deal is also likely to ensure the issue of tax inversion remains high profile in Washington DC, and recent noises by the US Federal Government about their concerns mean this is a policy debate we are following closely. However I still don’t believe we will see significant movement on it in the USA under this President or Congress.

In other news this week, the BIA published new materials on biological medicines, including biosimilar medicines, to enhance prescribers’ and other stakeholders’ understanding of these medicines and answer any frequently asked questions. Working with the ABPI we hope that they will assist healthcare professionals in particular to be aware of, and better understand the challenges of, the introduction of biosimilar medicines to the NHS. I’d welcome feedback on this. We’ve also been working on a concept paper on pharmacovigilance specific considerations for biological medicinal products and biosimilar medicinal products, which recommends that a biological-specific module of the EMA Guideline on good pharmacovigilance practices be developed.

On the blog this week, we’ve published a great piece writing up our Horizon 2020 breakfast on member experience of accessing European funding, which was held in the Commons earlier this month – its well worth a look.

Until next week

Best

Steve