Archives for the month of: September, 2014

CRACKIT_SBRI logo_plus NC3Rs_plus CRACKITEarlier this month, the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) open innovation platform, CRACK IT, awarded £4.9 million in its annual challenge-led competition, run in collaboration with Innovate UK. Here, Dr Cathy Vickers, Programme Manager – CRACK IT at the NC3Rs, describes the competition and one of the recent winners – a cross-sector Alzheimer’s disease research collaboration to improve tau testing and accelerate the 3Rs.

The NC3Rs CRACK IT Challenges competition has brought together a UK research charity, two large pharmaceutical companies, leading academics from two UK universities and two small biotechnology companies to begin a three-year collaboration developing patient derived stem cell assays to better investigate the role of the protein tau in Alzheimer’s disease.

Tau protein

Tau protein

The CRACK IT UnTangle Challenge – created by the NC3Rs and Alzheimer’s Research UK in collaboration with Lilly and Janssen (the Sponsors who will give in-kind support) – is to develop a physiologically relevant human stem cell-derived neuronal assay that predicts the efficacy and unexpected pharmacological side effects of new drugs targeting tau in Alzheimer’s disease.

CRACK IT is a unique programme from the NC3Rs, run in collaboration with the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) from Innovate UK. It brings together end users, technology developers and scientific experts to accelerate the development and uptake of new technologies that are emerging from the science base and which reduce animal use and/or improves animal welfare in research. This approach ensures that the technology developed is fit for purpose for its intended market, delivers better quality science and accelerates the 3Rs.

UnTangle addresses the major problem of the lack of predictivity of non-clinical animal models in the development of treatments for neurodegenerative diseases by capitalising on recent advances in stem cell technologies. Using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells it is possible to generate neurons that are human in origin. By using cells derived from healthy populations as well as diseased populations, the aim is to develop an assay that will minimise the risk of failure of a compound once it gets into the clinic and reduce reliance on animal models. This is one part of a significant global effort to increase the use of iPS cells to develop treatments for human disease, but importantly, it focuses on developing the correct platform on which to study these cells to ensure they are used to their maximum effect.

Dr Selina Wray

Dr Selina Wray

Four consortia were selected from the first round of applicants to receive £100k to deliver six-month Phase 1 proof-of-concept studies to convince the Sponsors and an independent panel of experts that they could meet the Challenge. On the basis of these initial studies, one consortium has now been awarded the Phase 2 contract of up to £1 million, funded by the NC3Rs, Innovate UK and Alzheimer’s Research UK, for up to three years to deliver the full Challenge. The successful team is led by Dr Selina Wray from University College London and brings together expertise from Roslin Cells, R Biomedical and Strathclyde University. Following the award in July 2014, the Sponsors, winners and the NC3Rs will actively collaborate over the next three years to develop a product that meets the needs of the Challenge brief and results in a new platform that is made widely available across all sectors; delivering better science in the field of Alzheimer’s Research and reducing the reliance on animal models.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe news last week that Adaptimmune have raised over $104 million from some of the US’s biggest life science funds shows that the UK is firmly on the map in the engineered T-cell therapy space. This should be a boost for all of us in the ecosystem who know we have the excellence to compete with anywhere in the world, and it’s the point that key sector investor Neil Woodford made in his first broadcast interview on the BBC Today programme on Friday – well worth a listen.

Last week also saw the US administration take administrative moves to tackle so-called tax inversion, which some commentators say now makes future global pharma deals less financially attractive, although I’d be unsurprised to see this new power tested in a court of law first. We’ll keep a watching brief.

Closer to home I’m delighted that we’ve teamed up with others to formalise the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP). This partnership, which members of the BIA Manufacturing Advisory Committee in particular have been devoting much time to getting off the ground, will work towards a common goal of creating an attractive and innovation-driven environment to ensure UK competitiveness in medicines manufacturing.

I was at the Labour conference in Manchester last week and chaired an excellent Life Sciences UK breakfast with Shadow Health Minister Jamie Reed MP (pictured above). We’ll publish a round-up at the end of all the conferences on what came out, but from Labour leader Ed Miliband’s speech peroration one section that struck me was “Together we bring up our families. Together we look out for our neighbours. Together we care for our communities. Together we build great businesses, the best in the world. Together we teach the young. Together we heal the sick. Together we care for the old. Together we invent cures for the most terrible of diseases. So, of course, friends, together we can rebuild our country.” This received little coverage but to me it suggests that the life science sector has a key role in Miliband’s vision for the future of Britain.

I’m looking forward to sharing a panel with George Freeman the Minister for Life Sciences at the Conservative Party conference fringe tomorrow – so long as my train from the BIA’s Liverpool breakfast gets me there on time!

Please remember to coordinate with your colleagues to vote in the election for BIA Board members if you haven’t done so already – the deadline is Friday.

I look forward to seeing many of you at our UK Bioscience Forum next week. If you’ve not yet booked now is your last chance, and as I expect us to sell out during this week, do book early to avoid disappointment.



Following on from the London Carrots NightWalk last weekend, this week’s video features Michele Acton, CEO of the BIA’s charity partner for 2014, Fight for Sight.

Michele will be speaking at our UK Bioscience Forum on 7 October to tell the story of ‘Helping Tommy – finding a treatment for Choroideremia’, alongside Dr Chris Hollowood from Syncona Partners, Dr Melanie Lee from NightstaRx, and Emma Salisbury – Tommy’s mum.

Join us there to hear how the responsibility for medicine development is spread across individuals and sectors, right from the passion and dedication of fundraisers affected by a condition, through charity funded research, to public sector funding and commercial investment.

Steve Bates and Michele Acton completing the 18 mile walk

Steve Bates and Michele Acton completing the 18 mile walk


It’s not too late to donate for this great cause via Steve Bates’ NightWalk sponsorship page – thanks for your support!

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

BIOAs in previous years, BIA and UKTI will be leading the UK delegation at BIO2015, working together to maximise the networking opportunities on the UK pavilion and offering grant assistance for companies to exhibit in Philadelphia. More information will be available later this year. In the meantime, as the deadline for BIO2015 panel sessions draws near (2 October), Sue Charles, Managing Partner, Life Sciences, Instinctif Partners, highlights the merits of using a panel session to raise your profile in front of the largest global biotech audience.

BIO International Convention, the Global Event for Biotechnology, is the largest conference in the life sciences business calendar, usually attracting some 16,000 delegates, including nearly 2,500 CEOs, with 40% of delegates drawn from International audiences, comprising 65+ countries. The UK is always well represented and it’s a great place to network and do business. BIO 2015 runs 16-18 June in Philadelphia, PA, USA, details here:

As with any conference, costs can be high when you add up registration fees, travel and accommodation and, of course, time. Organising and participating in a panel during BIO can provide a powerful opportunity for companies to position themselves as a thought leader. Unlike company presentation slots, there are no fees for running a panel and there is also the added benefit of reduced registration fees!

To be successful, session topics will need to be provocative, on cutting-edge topics that affect the global biotech industry with an attractive speaker line up. They can:

  • Profile new technology and provide insight on promising research developments.
  • Spark creative conversations: we welcome unique, timely, and novel ideas.
  • Build crucial dialogue with your audience through interactive education formats.
  • Establish yourself as an international expert who tackles the most pressing issue

Whilst June 2015 may seem a long way off, time is short to get in a panel proposal – the call for sessions closes on 2 October. Instinctif Partners has worked with many clients to devise attractive panel topics, preparing successful panel submissions and managing the co-ordination and promotion of the panel. Here are a few tips and guidance on what is available:

Session Formats

Different session topics may be suited to different session formats. Consider which of the following formats will most effectively serve to communicate your message.

  • Interview: One presenter, one moderator. The moderator questions the presenter on the session topic for approximately three fourths of the time, after which the floor is opened up for questions to the presenter from the audience.
  • Debate: One moderator and no more than two speakers will have an interactive, lively discussion in which they will put forth opposing views on the session topic.
  • How-To Session: Tutorials for the novice or expert in biotech with 1 – 2 speakers. Addresses a specific topic or issue in biotech and provides practical lessons learned. The total session time is 60 minutes including a minimum time of 15 minutes allotted for questions and answers with the audience.
  • Master: One presenter, who is considered a visionary in the biotechnology field, conducts a 45-minute presentation delivered lecture-style from the stage. Master speaker must be Executive CEO level and facilitate formal Q&A for the last 15 minutes of session (60 minutes total).
  • Interactive Panel: 60 and 75 minute offering where panellists (maximum of 3 plus one moderator) present case studies from multiple perspectives facilitated by a moderator. Moderator will facilitate formal Q&A with the audience and panellists for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Rapid Fire: Fast-paced session with an allotment of four speakers giving one distinct 10 minute talk each. Moderator will provide a brief summary of what had been covered and facilitate a formal Q&A with the audience for 15 minutes at the end of the session.

Speaker Information

Depending on the format, you are allowed a maximum of three speakers and one moderator per panel. The BIO Program Committee will prefer proposals which have a panel that is both completely confirmed and full, based on the proposed format.

Session Subjects

  • Business Development and Finance will focus on corporate deal making and operations, as well as fundraising for private and public companies.
  • Biomedical Technology: Research & Development
  • Digital Health will explore the intersection of digital health, biotech and pharma.
  • Value, Market Access & Commercialization
  • Intellectual Property will highlight current challenges in intellectual property protection for biotech innovations including pragmatic approaches to securing protection in light of the latest judicial and administrative developments. Those submitting proposals should ensure the content of the proposed session enables attendees to receive Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits.
  • General Biotechnology Interest will cover any areas that may not currently be represented in one of the top five focus areas.

In summary, advantages of organising a BIO panel include discounted entry to BIO for panel organisers and speakers; corporate awareness raising through the BIO program and your own marketing efforts; thought leadership profile and positioning with invited panel members.

To discuss how Instinctif Partners can support you in a panel session application for BIO, please contact us at:

gauke-abzena_600_300Scotland’s key decision last week to stay as part of the union provides a stable foundation for ongoing research and business development in the biotech sector, and has been welcomed by members from across the UK. The vote removes previously articulated worries regarding funding for the UK bioscience research community as well as application of UK wide drug regulation and licensing. However, a vote for no is not a vote for the status quo. Now the devo-max plan will be implemented; the first step will be a Parliamentary debate introduced by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP, followed by the introduction of a Draft Scotland Bill in the new year. We’ll monitor progress of these developments to inform on implications for the sector. Tax incentives and rates for SMEs will be our first focus.

I’m delighted to tell you that we’ll be welcoming Treasury Minister Financial Secretary David Gauke MP to open our UK Bioscience Forum on 7 October 2014, taking place during European Biotech Week. The Minister’s speech and Q&A will be timely following our response last week to the Treasury’s consultation on tax-advantaged venture capital schemes and how they can best support growing businesses.

Not only is Mr Gauke the lead Minister for the key finance and tax issues that impact biotech businesses, but through recent site visits to BIA member companies such as Horizon Discovery and Abzena (pictured above) he has demonstrated his personal interest in and commitment to the sector. As HM Treasury considers how underlying tax regimes might change, this is a great chance to engage with government on how the fiscal framework can best support innovation and investment. Come to along to the UK Bioscience Forum and put your questions to him yourself.

With the political party conference season over the next few weeks the BIA team will be on the ground ensuring we can gather real-time insight on what policy will matter to our sector, as well as ensuring all the parties understand what makes a difference to members. We will be back in touch after the season to give you the low-down.

I was also delighted also to see that the MHRA have issued their first Promising Innovative Medicine (PIM) designation under the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) we have worked to deliver for the sector. It’s been issued to US based company Northwest Bio. This could present the opportunity for UK patients to be amongst the first in the world to be offered personalised immune therapy for brain cancer and shows that the EAMS helps to attract clinical development to the UK. This also shows that it is open to all, and hopefully this will be the first PIM of many. On the European front, the Adaptive Licensing pilot project is also moving in the right direction. In the last couple of weeks the EMA confirmed that it has received and assessed 26 applications as part of its adaptive licensing pilot project. Seven of these have been selected for further discussion with the application. This news came as the EMA also published a useful Q&A document on the scheme. We anticipate a review from the EMA by the end of this year, after which the next steps will be set out.

For those of you interested in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) it was interesting to see US President Obama launching his multi-strategy attack on antibiotic resistance. The administration also is putting up $20m in a competition for the development of a rapid, point-of-care diagnostic test for healthcare providers to use to identify highly resistant bacterial infections. Like seeing the beginnings of speedy clinical trials for Ebola, it puts a spring in your step when action is taken to start tackling really important global challenges. And it was good of Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, leading the clinical trial application for the new Ebola vaccine, to put on record what the regulators were able to do – “What the MHRA did was remarkable. They were superbly efficient in fast tracking the approvals for this clinical trial, turning it round in under four days. It was crucial in being able to respond quickly to the great need seen in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa”.

Finally thanks to those of you who sponsored me as I did the 18 mile Carrots Nightwalk on Friday night for our charity partner of the year, Fight for Sight – it’s not too late to make a donation for this great cause. I’ll bring some pics of the event to the UK Bioscience Forum and look forward to seeing you there.



This year BBSRC is running Images with Impact: the Great British Bioscience Image Competition, seeking the best photos that represent how life sciences are changing the world, in areas such as: food, farming, bioenergy, biotech, industry and health.

The overall winner will be decided by public vote when shortlisted entries are displayed at the Great British Bioscience Festival in London in November – giving individuals a chance to get their images seen by a huge audience.

Watch this week’s member video for more details, and to see examples of past entrants.

Any type of image can be entered: photography, visualisations and even illustrations. You could be looking down a microscope, panning across farming landscapes or capturing a new piece of science technology – anything visual that shows the beauty of science and its impact.

Submissions will close on 6 October 2014 so be creative and get snapping! For more information and to apply for the competition, please click here.

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

First, this week’s news is that the first Promising Innovative Medicine (PIM) designation has been issued to Northwest Bio. It is great that the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) is moving forward and that its first user is a smaller company. This shows that it is open to all and hopefully it will be the first of many. This could present the opportunity for UK patients to be amongst the first in the world to be offered personalized immune therapy for brain cancer. It’s smart of nimble US companies like Northwest Bio to pioneer new regulatory flexibility alongside the clinical development they are doing at King’s College Hospital in the UK. We urge more companies to consider utilising the EAMS as a pathway to access and the BIA will be setting up more opportunities to learn more about the operation of the scheme later this year. Watch this space.

On the European front, the adaptive licensing pilot project is also moving in the right direction. Earlier this week the EMA confirmed that it has received and assessed 26 applications as part of its adaptive licensing pilot project. Seven of these have been selected for further discussion with the application. This news came as the EMA also published a useful Q&A document on the scheme. We anticipate a review from the EMA by the end of this year after which next steps will be set out.

Both these issues continue to be a key focus of our regulatory work. Early access is on the agenda at the UK Bioscience Forum and will also be discussed by BIA representatives at the EMA Information Day during Biotech Week.



George Freeman EAMS event_600_300

Last Thursday, we were delighted to take part in one of George Freeman MP’s first events as Life Sciences Minister, a panel discussion on economic regeneration and collaboration within the UK life sciences industry. See host Hanover’s blog on the event below.

Whilst so much focus is on whether Scotland will wave goodbye to the UK next week, Hanover’s event with new Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP and a panel of experts from industry and academia yesterday concluded that the life sciences community at least is better together.

Alongside the new Minister was a panel comprised of:

Jonathan Emms – UK Country Manager, Pfizer and President, ABPI Steve Bates – CEO, BioIndustry Association Dr Eliot Forster – Executive Chair, MedCity Professor Ian Greer – Chair, Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, University of Liverpool

The event was chaired by Andrew Ward, Pharmaceutical correspondent at the Financial Times, before an audience of 50 from life sciences companies, health and research charities, and funding bodies.

Warmth towards the new Minister at one of his first public speeches was strong from both the panellists and the audience – all welcomed a Minister with such a strong sector pedigree into this newly created position.  George Freeman’s whole career demonstrates his personal commitment to the sector. He said one of his tasks was to demonstrate the value of the new Ministerial position so that the first Life Sciences Minister in the UK (indeed globally) was, in his own words, “not the last.”

There was wide debate across topics including the patient benefits of genomics and big data, ensuring clinical research funding delivers maximum impact, and on driving greater use of new treatments and innovations to NHS patients more quickly. The power of collaboration and partnership locally, regionally and nationally through the MedCity and NHSA initiatives as well as the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) were seen as critical to delivering on these issues, and for continued economic growth in the face of international competition. As well as traditional rivals for investment in the US, Far East, or even Switzerland, it was noted that Paris is now setting up a life science initiative to mirror MedCity.  Steve Bates set out some of the different layers that define an effective cluster, which the UK has, from the coffee shop and canteen culture that facilitates the sharing of ideas, to the ability to attract and retain talent in a geography because people can move job without moving house.

Mr Freeman is clearly on a mission to make a difference in the short time he has before the next election.  He used this public platform to champion the role of MedCity, the NHSA, and AHSNs, and announced plans for a conference for all AHSNs to come together and share good practice and learnings. On data and research, he said the Government needs to “reboot” the initiative by setting out more clearly why the benefits of research to patients are so powerful. One attendee described a scenario where a patient decides not to allow their anonymised data to be used for research but then puts money in a collection box for Cancer Research UK. The Minister and others agreed that in future the giving of data needs to be considered as valuable as giving money.

It was noted that there is a third life sciences cluster in the UK in the Glasgow to Edinburgh corridor of Scotland. One week away from the Scottish referendum, Mr Freeman did not miss an opportunity to say that this Scottish science corridor is more dependent on public sector funding than the two English clusters and receives £400m every year in central Government funding, an amount which “could not be justified” if Scotland left the UK.

Panellists and the audience used their opportunity with the Minister to explain how industry investment commitments on Research and Development in the UK were still not being matched by NHS use of new products, including NICE approved technologies, and ones discovered and developed in the UK. Panellists pointed to cultural behaviours in the NHS which focus primarily on cost containment and too often see innovation as an additional cost rather than an opportunity to reengineer and improve care in more efficient ways. One contributor put it most succinctly; “the road to innovation stops at NHS procurement”. George Freeman said that Government was very aware that financial incentives remain poorly aligned to incentivise innovation in the NHS and that this was being looked at. He also expressed a desire to establish a number of local heath innovation pilots in the NHS, probably involving the AHSNs, to showcase good examples of innovative practice.

The Minister will be judged on how he delivers against these issues, and rightly states that he can only do so much in the next nine months or so. For now he will know he has a community united in support and keen to accelerate the agenda with him.