Archives for the month of: October, 2014

Andrew Ward

These were the opening questions posed by Andrew Ward, pharmaceuticals correspondent at the Financial Times who chaired the final panel session, ”The Recipe for Success”, at our recent UK Bioscience Forum. Expertly eliciting candid responses from the panellists, the session navigated its way through some of the critical considerations faced by biotech CEOs.

First up was the subject of the changing relationship between biotech and pharma, with all agreeing that the environment is undoubtedly more collaborative than it was a decade ago. Big pharma’s attitude was deemed to have become far more supportive, with pharma companies now working collaboratively with biotech companies and the finance community to get products to a stage at which pharma can ultimately acquire them, and turn them into medicines for patients.

Leading on from this, the benefits of having a corporate venture fund as an investor were highlighted as being uniquely positioned to ask the right questions and access vast amounts of skills and expertise to develop products. Evergreen funds were seen as critical to the future growth of the industry, with this recycling of capital into the system creating a longer-term view and improving the chances of creating UK champions.

Another stark change in the environment which was noted was the emphasis investors and licensing partners are now placing on reimbursement, which is now as a big a factor as likelihood of approval. Ultimately if a product is not going to achieve reimbursement, it will not be invested in. Stratification of patient population was referenced as one way of addressing this, to achieve an improved effect.


Recipe for Success panel (clockwise from top left): Ian Tomlinson, Dr Peter Wrighton-Smith, David Hipkiss and Dr Deborah Harland

Inevitably the question of a UK versus US listing was debated, and the responses emphasised that this decision must be founded on the company’s individual situation and that there is no simple answer. Whilst there was recognition of a larger pool of specialist investors in the US, the challenges of managing dual reporting requirements and the considerable costs associated with US compliance were also considered key factors. The favourable UK tax regime and impact of the patent box were also cited as important considerations for maintaining a UK domicile.

The panellists agreed that US investors are increasingly looking at opportunities in Europe, but that more is needed at the early stage. Most of these are later stage investments, with Adaptimmune being an exception attracting a number of cross-over funds to its recent series A raise. Transnational syndicates were viewed positively as they open more opportunities later on.

Another strategic challenge discussed was getting the balance right between partial licensing and going it alone. On the one hand, getting a deal done is seen as validation and can provide access to knowledge, assays, and chemistry libraries for example, but having two or three agreements in place can increase the difficulty of a trade sale later down the line. The ideal solution proposed was to have one or two really committed strategic partners whilst retaining seventy-five per cent of the opportunity to sell further down the line.

A strong UK-based pharma industry was viewed as critical for small companies to get access to skills and people, both at a management and technical level. Finding experienced management continues to be viewed as a specific UK challenge, and an area where the UK falls behind centres like Boston, where there are more options for setting up and exits for companies. Pharma company experience trains people to understand how to develop a product and make it into a medicine, and creates and maintains the UK’s technical expertise. This critical mass of skilled scientists was viewed as tremendously important, and led to a discussion on the importance of having the right team, and changing the team at the right time, as was the need to remunerate scientists more competitively to compete with US salaries.


Recipe for Success panel

On the policy side, the view was that government measures in life sciences were doing well, but must be maintained and could always be improved, for example by greater provision of incubator space or increased funding of the BioMedical catalyst. The Biomedical Catalyst was viewed as a huge success, as the match funding represents validation, making award winning companies far more attractive to VCs, and also providing great non-dilutive capital for smaller companies. The vital importance of R&D tax credits were also highlighted, with one panellist having received over £2.5m in these credits over the last four years.

The session closed with some reflections on the UK biotech sector as a national success story, with medical research viewed as one of few areas where the UK will be able to export. The panellists praised the UK environment and UK opportunities as outstanding against European peers.

Many thanks to the panellists for their contributions, and to Andrew for chairing the session on the day. For more information on the BIA’s recent policy work, please see our latest Policy Update.

With BioInfect taking place next week, our member video focuses on the topic of anti-microbial resistance. Yesterday Eli Lilly published details of its long-standing technology transfer programme to increase the global supply of medicines for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Since 2003 Lilly has been donating manufacturing technology and know-how for two antibiotics, effective in treating drug-resistant strains, to pharmaceutical manufacturers in China, India, Russia and South Africa – all MDR-TB ‘hot spots’.

Watch the video to find out more about how the programme was developed and went on to form the basis for the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership.

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarlier this month Liftstream published their report into gender diversity in the biotech sector, ‘Diversifying the Outlook – The X&Y of Biotechnology Leadership’. The report highlighted the gender imbalance within the sector, with ten men for every woman present in biotech boardrooms. Here, Karl Simpson, CEO Liftstream, provides more detail behind the findings of the research.

In the biotechnology sector on both sides of the Atlantic, the theme of executive leadership and board members is very much in focus. This was amplified at the recent BIA UK Bioscience Forum where Andrew Ward, Pharma Correspondent at the Financial Times, chaired a very interesting discussion which drew specific commentary from an illustrious panel of industry leaders about the challenges accessing the right skills and experience in the UK.

At Liftstream we’ve been doing some deeper analysis around this biotech leadership landscape. Our approach was to firstly do an assessment of what the executive teams and boards of biotech looked like today. We analysed 1491 companies across the European market as well as the prominent bio-clusters of the Bay Area and Boston. In looking at the companies, we saw statistical evidence which supported our assumption that women leaders are strongly under-represented in small and medium biotechs. FTSE 100 companies now have 23% female representation at board level, and no companies with all-male boards, while FTSE 250 companies have only 28 companies with all-male boards, so the biotech sector is trailing behind UK’s leading businesses in achieving improved gender balance.

In Europe, our analysis showed that 59.9% of biotech SMEs have all-male boards. Women hold just 11.2% of board seats, with only 4% as chair. The UK trailed this low average figure of 11.2% by showing only 9.6% women board members. Analysis of the leadership level showed a slightly healthier picture in terms of female representation, with the UK having 18% women leaders. However, across Europe only 7.7% of CEOs were women.

Liftstream’s report sets out clear data that proves the current environment is incredibly imbalanced in terms of gender equal leadership and that the X-chromosome is under represented. But we also wanted to know why there were ten men for every woman in board roles and what could be done to positively move this ratio. We conducted a survey of 530 industry professionals and over 60 interviews with board level executives and investors from the sector. These are prominent sector names from Europe and US, most of which have been publicly stated in the report. These topic-guided interviews uncovered clear reasons why women are not getting appointed to the key leadership positions and why they do not make up a more significant portion of the board population.

Among our conclusions was that biotech is strongly driven by personal networks and that unstructured hiring processes skew these appointments. It was often commented that the pipeline of female executives is not out there, yet we have found through our analysis of the 1491 companies and thousands of executives, that it is. Instead, the view of ‘candidate pipelines’ is a statement of personal networks, which in a sector so currently dominated by males, is clearly going to have bias. Wider and more comprehensive searches provide more diverse options. For example, pharma and big-biotech represents a very good source for executive talent and in these companies there are highly capable women with ‘entrepreneurial DNA’.

The 60-page report, ‘Diversifying the Outlook – The X&Y of Biotechnology Leadership’, is free to download and provides comprehensive analysis of the biotech sector, looking at drivers and barriers influencing gender diversity, with case studies from Cubist, Biogen Idec, Merck Serono and J&J. It explores the topic of unconscious bias and how this shapes leadership decisions and also provides a series of recommendations for industry stakeholders to address diversity.

The 60-page report is free to download now from:

Fiona Nicholson

Fiona Nicholson, Partner, Bristows

Sarah Ruthven

Sarah Ruthven, Associate, Bristows

Following the Life Sciences Seminar on ‘Navigating the Digital Healthcare Landscape’ held by Bristows LLP earlier this month, Fiona Nicolson and Sarah Ruthven, of Bristows LLP, discuss the opportunities and challenges opening up in the arena of digital healthcare.

The rapidly evolving developments in the field of digital healthcare have created a blurring of boundaries between hospital and personal monitoring. This blurring to some extent has been a consequence of the fact that patients are keen to participate in their own healthcare in a more direct way, and the need to find new ways of coping with the demands on the healthcare system of patients who are living longer with chronic illnesses which require regular monitoring. This demand from both sides is leading to the entry of non-traditional players (Google being a prime example) into the healthcare sector. This was the subject of discussion at a recent Life Sciences seminar at Bristows LLP earlier this month.

Whereas traditionally computer science, communications, and medicine were seen as entirely separate disciplines it is now recognised that in order to develop innovative ideas to address the various challenges facing the healthcare industry, ‘disruptive technology’ for clinical use is required. The message coming from the speakers at the Bristows’ seminar was that cutting edge innovation cannot be achieved by these industries working in isolation and new collaborative relationships need to be developed.

This type of “collaboration in action” was neatly illustrated by the example of the Google-Alcon deal which followed the development by Google of its ‘smart lens’ technology. Google, according to Afia Asamoah, Product Counsel at Google Life Sciences, readily admits that its expertise does not lie in the Life Sciences arena, but rather that it excels in technological innovations surrounding information management and analytics. Thus when Google announced the development of the ‘smart lens technology’ in January of this year, it stated “we are not going it alone: we plan to look for partners who are experts in bringing products like this to market” – and that is exactly what it did, eventually choosing to award a licence for its “smart lens” technology to Alcon, the eye care division of Novartis.

All three speakers highlighted the need for partnerships of different areas of expertise in order to achieve success in the digital healthcare landscape. Aria Asamoah discussed that as in the Alcon deal, going forward Google will be actively seeking partners to collaborate in bringing developments of its technology to market in the form of clinically meaningful products. Seth D. Levy, Partner at Nixon Peabody, spoke of the convergence of the technology, content and healthcare industries that is happening in LA at ‘Silicon Beach’ and the way in which these sectors are working together to drive innovation and enhanced user experience in the healthcare space. Professor Tarassenko, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Oxford University and Founder of Oxehealthdiscussed the increasing interaction and partnerships between Silicon Valley and universities in Oxford, Cambridge and London.

Professor Tarassenko explained that the combination of technology and clinical care is not exactly a new idea- indeed the concept of ‘Telehealth’ was being discussed 10 years ago. However, given the ubiquitous and advanced nature of smartphone technology in this day and age, the landscape for such alliance to succeed is far more fertile now than it was then.

This opens up vast new possibilities for healthcare companies to harness the powers of digital devices for non-conventional use. Oxehealth, for example, are developing ways of using webcam technology, already available in the huge majority of UK households, as a means of monitoring vital signs in a quick non-invasive way. This is without even beginning to touch upon the numerous possibilities for companies surrounding the exploitation of technological advances in products under the categories of ‘implantables’ ‘wearables’, and ‘ingestibles’.

While it was discussed that healthcare companies need to actively seek collaborations with technological industry, and be less risk averse to the opportunities opening up in the technological sphere (which are inherently uncertain by their ground-breaking nature), the speakers highlighted that it is also important for technology companies to be aware of the need to liaise with the clinicians in order to create products which will have meaningful impact. Currently many home monitoring devices are just recording ‘noise’ – ie data which is of no real clinical use or significance.

Technological innovation by its nature is characterised by speed, yet medical devices can take years to get regulatory approval, and this mismatch can cause frustration. It must be recognised that is a new era for the regulators as well, and there also needs to be collaboration between industry and the regulators in order to ensure education of both sides and the development of a pathway to get such developments to market in a way that is clinically safe, efficient and commercial.

The belief expressed by Google that the toughest healthcare problems can be solved more innovatively with different experts around the table can be neatly summed up by the quotation from the CEO of Novartis, Joseph Jiminez upon the announcement of the Google/Alcon deal “Some of our biggest healthcare issues that we will face over the next 10 years are going to be solved by bringing together high technology with biology”. The message coming loud and clear from the recent Life Sciences seminar at Bristows LLP was that in order to achieve this symbiosis of industries, both technicians and clinicians must find new ways of working with each other to achieve the desired pioneering results.

UKBSF_vaccines_panel_cropIn this UK Bioscience Forum session, panellists from public health bodies in the UK and industry discussed the changes, successes and challenges involved in childhood vaccinations. Introducing the session, panel chair Dr David Rhodes, Head of Business Development at Public Health England (PHE), highlighted the fundamental role of childhood vaccination in maintaining cost-effective healthcare systems:  vaccinations early on in life help ensure that people remain healthy throughout their lifetime.

The impact of preventable childhood disease was graphically illustrated by Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE and Honorary Senior Lecturer, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Grace Williams of the UK was just three years old when she lost both her legs, fingers and several digits as a result of meningococcal infection. Seeing a child suffer in this way, it seems obvious that if a vaccine for children is available, it should be used, said Dr Ramsay.

The NHS Constitution of 2009 reflects this, stating that the NHS is obliged to use a vaccine if one exists. However, vaccination programmes have to be not only effective in protecting children against infectious diseases but also cost effective.

Economic analysis for vaccines is more complicated than for drugs. Unlike drugs, where the therapeutic benefit is delivered quickly to that individual, vaccinations are expected to protect people for several years through indirect, or “herd” protection.


Dr Mary Ramsay

For example, the meningococcal infection largely affects children under the age of two years. In practice, a combination of vaccinating at-risk young children and teenagers, who have the highest risk of carriage, has shown to be most effective from a clinical and economic perspective, concluded Dr Ramsay.

The UK’s success in delivering childhood vaccination programmes had made it a world leader in providing advice to other countries. Hilary Simons, a Senior Specialist Nurse at the UK-based National Travel Health Network and Centre, NaTHNaC, noted that the organisation’s helpline had 50,000 enquiries over a five-year period and receives two million website hits each year.

From a development perspective, vaccination programmes can be challenging because organisms change. For meningococcal disease, the serum bactericidal assay, the gold standard for assessing protection, is becoming less reliable in the pediatric setting, explained Dr Stephen Taylor, Senior Project Team Leader (Pathogen Immunology) at PHE.

With up 250 different strains of the infection, finding suitable donors with low levels of bactericidal concentrations is challenging. Dr Taylor’s team is pioneering a high throughput surrogate complement deposition assay that uses much smaller serum volumes and an IgG human depleting plasma that overcomes problems of sourcing the human complement.

Attitudes towards vaccine effectiveness among regulators are also changing. For example, GlaxoSmithKline’s malarial vaccine offers 40%-50% protection which can help reduce disease burden, especially because many episodes can occur. Dr Volker Vetter, Global Medical Affairs Lead (Nisseria and Polio) at GSK, Belgium, said that the vaccine may well not have been approved a few years ago based on that level of clinical efficacy. Despite this, Dr Vetter reiterated the primacy of cost-effectiveness in decision making on vaccine use in healthcare systems, echoing the earlier comments of Dr Ramsay and other speakers.

IMG_1166_600x300Good to see C4X Discovery (formerly Conformetrix) successfully IPO on AIM last week. This University of Manchester spin-out demonstrates that investable science is not only to be found in Universities in one part of the country and shows continued positive UK public market support for BIA member companies.

Elsewhere, NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens set out the ‘NHS Five-Year Forward View’, a key document for the future of the NHS in England. The document sets out a scenario to close the projected £30 billion NHS funding gap by the year 2020/21 – by combining efficiency savings with significantly increased government funding, decisions that will fall to the next parliament.

There is also an explicit mention of the Early Access to Medicines Scheme, albeit without much detail yet: ‘In some cases it will be hard to test new treatment approaches using [randomised controlled trials] because the populations affected are too small. NHS England already has a £15m a year programme, administered by NICE, now called “commissioning through evaluation” which examines real world clinical evidence in the absence of full trial data. At a time when NHS funding is constrained it would be difficult to justify a further major diversion of resources from proven care to treatments of unknown cost effectiveness. However, we will explore how to expand this programme and the Early Access to Medicines programme in future years. It will be easier if the costs of doing so can be supported by those manufacturers who would like their products evaluated in this way.’ We’ll be remaining engaged to find out what the next steps will be and for any detail on what is meant by manufacturers ‘supporting’ the costs, particularly for SMEs.

There are a number of recommendations for exploiting the ‘information revolution’ and  accelerating health innovation. Recognising that the average time it takes to translate a discovery into clinical practice is often too slow, it is great to see the document state ‘as well as a commitment to research, we are committed to accelerating the quicker adoption of cost-effective innovation – both medicines and medtech. We will explore with partners – including patients and voluntary sector organisations – a number of new mechanisms for achieving this’.

The Medical Innovation Bill was debated in the House of Lords last Friday. Peers adopted a series of amendments tabled by Lord Saatchi (who introduced the proposed legislation as a private Bill earlier this year) intended to meet previously raised concerns that the original Bill did not contain sufficient measures to safeguard patient safety. These amendments were supported by the government and were also drafted following consultation with NHS England Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh. Labour tabled some interesting amendments regarding processes to ensure outcomes from experimental treatment used were logged and shared. Lord Saatchi has committed to a roundtable meeting with other Peers ahead of the Report Stage debate and BIA will be using that mechanism to explore potential unwelcome consequences from the Bill. Watch this space for further detail.

It was fascinating to hear in the news last week that a pioneering new cell therapy has enabled a paralysed man to walk again (see this week’s video for more information). The technique was originally discovered by researchers at UCL, highlighting the strength of our science base in the UK – something which will be further supported by a £150m investment in the UK’s clinical research infrastructure announced by the Chancellor on Thursday.

EU Commission President Elect Jean-Claude Juncker has now confirmed that responsibility for pharmaceuticals and medical devices at EU level will remain with the health directorate rather than being moved to the industry directorate as he had earlier proposed – this suggests this agenda will be less focussed  on the need for economic growth within Europe under his Presidency, and gives us some clue as to his style of operation.

Last Wednesday we held our Regulatory Dinner Discussion – pictured – with guest speaker Dr Ian Hudson, Chief Executive of the MHRA. There was a great turnout and lots of lively debate around the challenges of regulation in the current environment.

We also recently hosted a webinar outlining the process and key issues involved in the ongoing devolution debate: not just for Scotland but for the rest of the UK as well. Check out the slides at It strikes me that the issues being considered in Scotland by the Smith Commission as well as a push by Labour to think about devolution not only in national but regional and city terms (an argument augmented last week by the City Growth Commission) could potentially have a significant impact on the UK biotech sector. Is it time for us to be actively calling for corporation tax (including R&D tax credits) to stay as a reserved UK power? Thoughts on a postcard please.

Finally, AusBiotech 2014 starts tomorrow – if you’re lucky enough to be attending, don’t forget to drop by the UK pavilion to say hello to the BIA’s Karen Chandler-Smith who has masterminded the UK mission. If you are attending Bio Europe I look forward to seeing you in Frankfurt next week.




On Tuesday it was announced that a paralysed man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from his nose to his spinal cord. Darek Fidyka, who was paralyzed from the chest down four years ago, can now walk using a frame.

The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists from University College London. Watch this week’s video from BBC News, below, to find out more about the therapy.

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

We were delighted to welcome Lord Drayson to the BIA’s UK Bioscience Forum to deliver a keynote speech. Having previously worked both within government and as a CEO within the sector, Lord Drayson promised to be an ideal speaker to bridge the policy and commercial considerations of our sector and on that front his speech did not disappoint.

Concurrent with an overall theme of celebrating success that emerged throughout the day, Lord Drayson was keen to emphasise the positive developments for the sector both in terms of policy progress and commercial success.

Lord Drayson echoed many other endorsements we heard during the UK Bioscience Forum about how good a place the UK is for life sciences: its science base, the clusters of world class companies around leading universities, the level of investment into research and the tax and fiscal environment. He congratulated the BIA on the publication of the UK Life Sciences Manifesto 2015-2020 and underlined how important the fiscal measures introduced by the current and previous government had been. He also welcomed the figures outlined in the BIA/EY State of the Nation report showing unprecedented levels of financing compared to recent years.

However his core message was that the UK biotech industry should be far from complacent and needs to build on the momentum it has already achieved. In a message that would be quoted throughout the day in the networking coffee and lunch breaks, he said “we need to add a nought or two to the jobs and growth we are achieving”.

He set out a number of challenges and ideas to build on where we are now, including:

  • Focus on transforming start-ups into seriously large companies
  • The role of university technology transfer departments in incubating such start-ups further and helping accelerate growth of these companies in their early years
  • Government work to redress the balance between short and long term investing; potentially introducing tax incentives for both investors and management teams to hold their shares for more than 10 years
  • Cultivate a management culture of “proactive evolution” within biotech businesses and ditching the “knitting” when circumstances change

His final vision statement “delivering better health, more jobs and more wealth for the nation” left us all with food for thought.

Picture 182What does it take to be a leader in the biotechnology sector? Earlier this month at the UK Bioscience Forum, our ‘Game-changing Leaders’ panel session discussed the different attributes required to lead a company and how this evolves through the lifecycle of a business. Here are some of the key points to take away for any aspiring entrepreneurs and CEOs of the future:

  • There are many behavioural determinants for a successful leader, however as a business evolves these requirements will change. Businesses go through phases and require different leadership at each stage
  • Failure can be key to future success
  • Diversity within an organisation is essential to encourage innovation
  • Having a clear culture within an organisation is important, both to encourage the best from your employees and to attract the right talent.

Later this week, BioBeat14 will explore leadership in the bioscience sector and celebrate its female leaders at the ‘50 Movers and Shakers’ event. Below, Miranda Weston-Smith, founder of BioBeat, discusses disrupting the status quo in biotech and recognising the contribution of biotech’s leading women.

Biotechology has shaken up the business environment, creating new ways of thinking and a model for open innovation that is being adopted by other industries. I have advised many biotech entrepreneurs and looking back over the last 10 years can see the impact that they have made both on the pharma industry and beyond.

Biotechnologists came straight from academia and started to commercialise their work without first joining one of the large established companies. This created a major disruptive influence on the status quo. For the first time, instead of innovation being produced from within the organisation, there became scope for pharmaceutical businesses to fill their product pipelines by ‘purchasing’ interesting molecules and technology from small organisations.

Large pharmaceutical companies started to outsource the elements of their businesses that were not core competencies and to look outside for new ideas and approaches. As a result, the life sciences sector has seen a radical restructure with the growth of clusters of businesses with mutual dependencies. This is continuing with new communities which, by working collaboratively, are increasing our understanding of the action of therapeutics at a gene level.  This has led to the detection of novel biomarkers, stem cell treatments and has created opportunities for personalised and preventative medicine.

The result is not just diversification of the industry, but it has also driven the creation of new business models and a need for a variety of skills sets.

Although I have seen an increasing proportion of women in leadership roles at all levels in bio companies this has not been reflected by the number of women on the podium, cited as thought leaders in the media, or on investor panels. As a result, the industry has been missing their insights and the valuable role models they can provide to younger scientists.

To address this issue I developed the concept of ’50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2014′ and challenged the industry to recognise the contribution that senior women are making. I saw the potential for female leaders to inspire the next wave of bio innovation and build a stronger life sciences sector.

Research suggests that women adopt different strategies for business growth; from novel ways of building companies and working in teams, to raising funds and attitudes to risk.

BioBeat14 aims to look at the next generation of business ideas with a debate on ‘Leading in a Collaborative World’ to tease out how bio companies can stay ahead with new ways of working and adapting to ever changing global health needs. As the biotech industry comes of age, the entrepreneurs who benefitted in the early wave now have the money, and the appetite, to invest in new approaches.

Investors invest in people, and the suggestion is that recruiting the ‘same again’ is detrimental to the future growth of a company.

Increasing the visibility of dynamic women in companies, research, hospitals, finance and advisory roles with their visions and boldness brings fresh thinking and opportunities for bio entrepreneurs. We can double our life science business potential.

UPDATE: The BioBeat report 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2014 is now available,  identifying 50 inspirational women in biobusiness in the UK who are challenging the status quo and bringing better health to people around the world.