Last Thursday over 100 attendees from the UK life science industry and investor community gathered at the London Stock Exchange for a day showcasing why the sector is ripe for investment. In this first of two blogs, we summarise the keynotes and the presentations from seven non-listed companies.
Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor of London for Business and Enterprise, kicked off the conference discussing the healthcare sector’s significance for London and the UK, and the need to bring people together at this type of event to ‘get some of the money talking to the science’. The Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman MP, who officially opened the London market on the morning of the conference, spoke to the delegates about the Government’s support for UK life sciences. He stressed that having a healthcare system that supports the life sciences industry is critical, and this means pulling innovation through to the NHS more quickly. He also said he has been in discussion with the Chancellor about strategies to boost UK innovation and investment in life sciences.
Mene Pangalos, Executive VP of Innovative Medicines & Early Development at AstraZeneca, highlighted molecules in the AstraZeneca pipeline that have been discovered or developed in the UK. He also illustrated how their new site at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus will encourage interaction with neighbouring organisations including the Medical Research Centre, Addenbrooks and Papworth hospitals, helping the company to maintain its highly collaborative approach with universities and biotech companies. Looking to the future, Pangalos predicted that popular trends will include personalised healthcare, human cell technology and ‘intelligent medicines’ – implantable bio-sensing devices with mobile data.
Reflecting over the last 20 years, Andy Richards, healthcare investor and founder of Chiroscience and Vectura, noted that the companies that have survived – including Gilead, Celgene, Shire and BTG – are the ones that evolved their business models at the right time. Now more than ever, the focus in the healthcare industry is on the patient rather than the product, and Richards believes the UK has the right ingredients to be well suited to patient-centric healthcare. New technologies and improved diagnoses will turn medicine ‘from an art into a science’. He predicted key trends will be real world patient and baseline data (enabled by new technology and devices), digital health and medicine, patient and disease stratification (which will improve outcomes, reduce waste and enhance compliance), and better understanding of co-morbidity.
In the morning showcase session delegates heard pitches from: John Milad, CEO of Quanta Fluid Solutions on their portable cartridge based haemodialysis system for lost kidney function; Eliot Forster, CEO of Immunocore on their ImmTAC approach to using the body’s own T-cell receptors for the treatment of cancer; and Julian Gilbert, CEO of Acacia Pharma on repurposing medicines including for Post Operative Nausea and Vomiting (PONV), a significant factor in patient welfare and the cost of healthcare.
The afternoon session featured: Paul Jones, CEO of Genomics England, on how the 100,000 Genomes Project will connect with and benefit the wider UK life science and healthcare ecosystem; Jim McDonald, CFO of Oxford Nanopore on why their highly portable MinION device has the potential to disrupt the sequencing market; Clive Dix, CEO of Convergence Pharma; and Christian Grøndahl, CEO of Kymab.
Clive Dix described Convergence Pharma’s pain treatment pipeline, achieving orphan drug status for a treatment for trigeminal neuralgia and the greater potential for use in the wider pain market. As Convergence Pharma was recently acquired by Biogen Idec, Dix reflected on the company’s exit and speculated on where they might have listed (with the company’s leadership and investors divided over the draw of the UK markets versus Nasdaq).
Christian Grøndahl discussed Kymab’s plans for their fully human monoclonal antibody therapeutics and transgenic mouse platform technology. Grøndahl’s bold claims – Kymouse is ‘the best technology on the planet – you have to trust me’, ‘we think we could be a British Regeneron – or something similar – in 10 years’, and ‘we’re going to use a lot of capital to make this happen’ – certainly drew the attention of attendees and contributed to the positive buzz that reminded commentators of the annual JP Morgan healthcare investor conference in San Francisco.
See our short publication highlighting stats and trends on the UK’s vibrant biotech industry and the public markets. We partnered with One Nucleus and hosts MedCity and the London Stock Exchange for this event, which was also sponsored by JP Morgan, Numis and Citigate Dewe Rogerson. Follow the links to see interviews on business news channel CNBC from George Freeman MP and JP Morgan’s Cathrin Petty.