BIA Gala Dinner 2014This week most of us are now ‘back at school’ following the New Year. It’s the first trip of 2015 for me and I look forward to seeing many of you in San Francisco in and around the JP Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference and Biotech Showcase as we raise the Union Flag for UK bioscience in Union Square. The highlight for me will be the BIA’s joint reception with AZ and Medimmune on the Wednesday night at the Old Mint – I look forward to seeing you there.

2014 was a great year for UK biotech and 2015 looks to be set for more of the same. This coming week is an important global ‘shop window’ for our world-leading companies at all stages of development. It was great to see, as I got off the plane at San Francisco, the $675m buyout deal of Cambridge-based Convergence Pharmaceuticals by Biogen Idec, acquiring its neuropathic pain portfolio. If this proves to be a sign of things to come this week, in terms of buzz around innovation coming out of the UK, it’s certainly going to be a riveting trip.

Back in the UK, January is a busy month for BIA events, including the Future of Healthcare Investor Forum and our flagship Gala Dinner (pictured above, from 2014) which promises to be a great evening and, as predicted, sold out just after Christmas.

On Adaptive Pathways (formerly known as Adaptive Licensing), the EMA has now published its report on the initial experience it gained as part of the pilot project. A total of 34 requests were received by the EMA over the last eight months, six of which have so far been selected to take forward. It was also reported last week that Bristol-Myers Squibb has been awarded a Promising Innovative Medicine (PIM) designation for their new melanoma therapy, Opdivo. They join Northwest Biotherapeutics as the second company to be granted a PIM. We’ll be watching the progress on these two initiatives closely through 2015. The briefings we published on these inititiatives last year are available from the following links: Adaptive Pathways; Early Access to Medicines Scheme.

Initially expected to coincide with the Autumn Statement, the government’s Science and Innovation Strategy ‘Our plan for growth: science and innovation’ was released just ahead of Christmas. The Strategy reiterated many of the commitments set out in the Autumn Statement, including how long-term funding will be used to support key priorities and projects in UK science and innovation. £5.9 billion of capital will support UK scientific excellence until 2021, the most long-term commitment to science capital in decades. Of this, £2.9 billion will support large scale investments including in big data and high-value manufacturing, plus a £900 million ‘capital agility fund’ to respond to major challenges as they emerge. The remaining £3 billion will go towards individual research projects and ensuring the UK has world-class labs.

While there is little detail in terms of how, the Strategy addresses the need to support infrastructure, business investment and talent for UK science and innovation, and to maximise the benefits for the UK economy. A number of BIA’s recommendations were supported in the Strategy including:

  • An equitable division of funding between higher education and maintenance of world class labs versus large scale investments in major national and international projects
  • Continued support for regenerative medicine and synthetic biology, as part of the 8 Great Technologies, when prioritising which areas to invest in, alongside support for high value manufacturing
  • Continued investment in both ‘people and kit’ and recognition that revenue costs are a key factor in determining the affordability of projects or facilities

In Prime Minister’s Questions last week Macclesfield MP David Rutley welcomed the Alderley Park Taskforce Report into the life sciences sector in the North West of England and Prime Minister David Cameron recognised that the life sciences is a ‘vital industry for our country’s future’.

You may be aware that the Department of Health (DH) launched a review of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), as part of the Triennial Reviews of all of its Arm’s Length Bodies. The BIA is responding to the DH call for evidence. If Members are interested, please contact our Head of Regulatory Affairs Christiane Abouzeid.

A reminder that registration for the UKTI Oncology and Drug Discovery mission to India closes this Friday. The mission will focus on India’s two leading cities in the field of Oncology – Bangalore and Mumbai – and coincide with India’s flagship Biotechnology event, Bangalore India Bio. You can register your interest here.

Finally, we’ve been contacted by colleagues at BIS who are collecting evidence about companies’ experiences with the EU Single Market. Read more about it here. We know from members that the fact the EU is a single market is an important factor in business decisions, so if you’d like to share your experiences of how the Single Market has helped your company, or the challenges you have faced, please take a few minutes to shape UK policy on this area by completing the survey. The deadline for responses is 6 February.