HSTs_booklet_600x300Last week saw the Chancellor deliver his Autumn Statement. Beyond the macro political and economic message of staying the course to economic recovery, for our sector, there was much to be welcomed including increases in R&D tax credits (from 1 April 2015 the rate of above the line credit will increase from 10% to 11% and for SMEs the rate of credit will increase from 225% to 230%), investment of £5.9 billion into UK research infrastructure over next 5 years, new investments in high value manufacturing including an additional £61 million funding for the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, as well as new processes to make the administration of tax-advantaged venture capital schemes more effective and straightforward. Read our full analysis here.

There have also been further developments on the Patent Box. In a statement to Parliament, the government confirmed that its joint proposal with Germany for a new nexus approach for Patent Box schemes had been adopted by the by OECD-G20 members at the Forum for Harmful Tax Practices (FTHP) and the EU Code of Conduct Group during meetings between 17 and 20 November. The BIA has also recently met with HM Treasury officials to further understand the process going forward and articulate issues of concern to members in the implementation of these changes. We anticipate formal consultation from the Treasury in 2015 and will also be engaging directly with the OECD, when it comes to London in January next year, to consult stakeholders on its processes to take forward these issues. As I’ve stated before, we are forming a BIA working group on the Patent Box. If you’d like to become involved or learn more please contact Pamela Learmonth.

Last Tuesday, together with colleagues at Genetic Alliance UK, we held a roundtable discussion on the topic of access to Highly Specialised Technologies (HSTs) – medicines for very rare diseases – with 20 stakeholders including several Lords, Andrew Miller MP, and representatives from industry and patient organisations. We set out some polling data that clearly shows the public supports the need for patients with very rare diseases to have equal access to treatment compared to patients with more common conditions. Much of the conversation centred around the framework for evaluation of HSTs, which is currently unclear, complicated and is not enabling enough life-improving therapies to reach patients in need. Genetic Alliance UK presented an update on their Patient Charter, outlining patient perspectives and priorities, calling on policymakers to ensure the HST evaluation process is fit for purpose in the wider commissioning landscape, and for transparency in the process including how drugs are selected and on what basis the health economics calculations are made. One important consideration is that NICE’s current definition of ‘clinically distinct’, used in the selection process, does not reflect sub-groups of patients defined by genetic or symptom biomarkers, which are increasingly relevant.

Today I’m pleased to be speaking at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC)’s masterclass workshop on developing partnerships with industry. The AMRC has just published an Essential Partnerships guide for medical research charities working with industry, covering everything from the benefits of collaboration to the practicalities of developing the agreement and managing IP in a partnership. Of course the guide will be equally helpful for companies wanting to collaborate with charities. For more information about charity collaborations you might also want to see this summary of an event BIA and AMRC co-hosted back in January and AMRC’s recent guest blogs (http://wp.me/p2pLWn-rnhttp://wp.me/p2pLWn-AO).

The Medical Innovation Bill will receive its Report Stage debate in the House of Lords this Friday. The BIA has continued to engage with Peers on this issue and a report back on that debate will come round in next week’s Newscast.

2014 looks set to end on a high in terms of IPOs in the sector. New BIA member Midatech saw its first day of dealings on AIM today, Liverpool-based Evgen announced plans to raise £20m when it floats later this month and Quantum Pharma looks likely to become the sector’s biggest float on AIM this year when it starts trading on Wednesday. A great end to fantastic year for UK life science IPOs.

At the recent bioProcessUK conference I launched our ‘Ebola capacity audit’, to assess what the UK biotech community could offer should large scale manufacturing of an Ebola treatment or vaccine be required. We’ve designed a survey to collect information on what organisations have to offer – facilities, knowledge or equipment. We plan to feedback our results to the government by the end of 2014, so please take a look over the next week and consider what your organisation could offer. The survey can be completed here.

Finally, a reminder that next week’s Newscast will be showcasing the best of 2014 as a round-up of the year. We’ll then be taking a break over the festive period, returning 12 January.