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 http://bia.me/devowebinar. 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.

 

Best,

Steve