Cogent _SIP_shutterstock_600_300The BIA has teamed up with JP Morgan, Numis Securities, the London Stock Exchange, MedCity and One Nucleus to organise a ‘Future of Healthcare Investor Forum‘ which will be held at the London Stock Exchange on 29 January 2015, the day of our Gala Dinner. I am really excited that this event can showcase the best of UK life science companies, from the largest to some of the most exciting emerging companies, and  explain to a broad investment community the opportunity in our sector – of which BIA members are significant players. Hopefully we can bring to the UK investment community some of the buzz that happens around the JP Morgan event in San Francisco each year.

Last week I met with George Freeman MP as he held a key meeting of the UK life science ecosystem as he works towards a 21st century landscape for life sciences. He was particularly focused on the way in which data will transform healthcare in the 21st century, on what the new model for drug and medtech discovery, design, development and procurement will look like, and on new ways of catalysing faster uptake of innovation. This promising meeting gives me confidence that many of the issues we advocate for are at the top of George’s agenda.

It’s an important week for Simon Stevens, the recently appointed boss of NHS England, as he’ll deliver his forward vision for the NHS this week. We’ll be watching for commitments to (and any detail on processes to) deliver an innovative organisation with research and new ways of doing things embedded in the NHS’s DNA.

In parliament this Friday the Lords will debate the Medical Innovation Bill championed by Lord Saatchi. This week the government has given the bill its backing. It aims to make it easier for doctors to try out new treatments on patients without the fear of being sued. This is not an issue that members have asked us to prioritise, as it has not been raised as a major impediment to innovation in the NHS. We will keep a watching brief and intervene as necessary.

I’m reflecting on the implications of the calling off of the Abbvie/Shire deal and would welcome member input and thoughts on this. It seems to me that whilst we have spent significant time and effort in the UK to develop, build a political consensus for and legislate for an attractive fiscal environment for life science companies, the policy position in the USA has been executive, administrative and hasty – which is neither predictable, nor long term nor certain for companies. I’d welcome your views.

As we approach BioInfect 2014 next month, which looks at the critical issues relating to the development of new anti-infectives and the endemic problem of resistance, I was delighted to see that the UK is home to the world’s first antibiotic resistance research charity. Just formally launched last week, Antibiotic Research UK looks to find at least one drug before end of decade.

As you will know, our sector needs a supply of staff with often wide ranging or very specialised skills. It was good to hear that a number of BIA member companies were not only represented but taking a leading role at last week’s annual skills forum for the Science Industry Partnership (SIP). Members from both FUJIFILM Disoynth Biotechnologies and Pfizer spoke about the SIP scheme for employer-led skills training and the value it has brought to their organisations. SMEs can claim back up to 50% of the cost of a SIP-accredited workforce development opportunity, so I’d encourage you to take a look at courses on offer – look out for the SIP logo.

And also on the skills front, following on from the ABPI’s survey of the UK STEM skills landscape in 2008 they are revisiting the skills review to benchmark and assess current and emerging skills needs in our sector today, and to identify actions which could be taken to address those needs. Please do take a moment to complete the parts of the survey that are relevant to you (as either an individual, a department or a company) – whether you see a lack of people with a niche or key skill, or whether you are happy with the talent available, it is really valuable to feed that back.