I really enjoyed the discussion at our networking lunch in Edinburgh BioQuarter last week. It was great to hear the positivity of companies there about 2015, and to get the wise advice of those who have been in the sector a while on trends in funding and the public markets. The Scottish Life Sciences awards and dinner was also a fun and lively evening and it was good to see UK policy initiatives like the Biomedical Catalyst celebrated in the award finalists.
On my radar for business news this week is Woodford Investment Management’s announcement of plans to launch a £200 million patient capital fund – Woodford Patient Capital Trust – for long term investment. The fund is expected to list on the LSE and to invest in early growth and early stage companies, primarily in the UK. In a sense this goes with the grain of current City of London market sentiment which seems comfortable with supporting expert investors bundling innovative companies (to both a manageable investment scale and diversification of risk) for a generalist appetite. I hope our recent event at the LSE has helped “pitch roll” effectively for Neil’s launch.
Glyn Edwards, my predecessor here at the BIA, announced last week that his company, AIM-listed Summit, has filed to list on NASDAQ – another BIA member demonstrating the strength of UK bioscience across the Atlantic. And it’s interesting to see that Cardiff-based biotech company Cell Therapy has hit a crowdfunding record for life sciences, securing nearly £700,000 via the Crowdcube platform (pictured). The company opted to turn down venture capital offers in favour of equity for the advancement of their heart disease treatment.
On the European regulatory front it’s encouraging to see that the European Medicines Agency’s Annual SME Report, published last week, shows an increase in the success rate of SME applications for marketing authorisation for new medicines since the start of their SME initiative in 2005.
In policy news, MPs approved mitochondrial transfer last week with a majority vote. While the issue might not affect many BIA member companies directly, the decision will be seen as a bellwether for well-informed politicians’ attitudes towards pioneering the use of new and controversial technologies in the UK for medical benefit.
It looks like we will start to learn more about the Precision Medicine Catapult in the next few weeks, as the Chairman has now been announced as Richard Barker, founding Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Sustainable Medical Innovation (CASMI) and chairman of the South London Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and its Genomic Medicine Centre. We partnered with Richard last year on events to explain Adaptive Licensing (now known as Adaptive Pathways) and look forward to understanding more of the Catapult’s plan from him and Innovate UK.
The second report from Jim O’Neill’s review on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was published last Thursday. The first report, released last December, hit the headlines with stark figures estimating the catastrophic impact of AMR unless immediate action is taken. The second and subsequent reports will now look at efforts which could be put in place to tackle the issue. Research and innovation has a vital role to play and it’s great to see this recognised in the form of a suggested ‘AMR innovation fund’ to support blue sky science. The report also calls for better diagnostics, better surveillance and greater support for researchers in the international race to solve the growing problem of AMR. These are all more immediate actions, and it will be interesting to see the third report, due in Spring, which will cover how to stimulate the market for companies to invest in and develop new antimicrobials.
The release of the second report comes as the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) AMR research programme, New Drugs 4 Bad Bugs (ND4BB) launches a new project – COMBACTE-MAGNET. 33 academic partners and five industry partners, including BIA member MedImmune, will collaborate on the €167 million project over 7 years, to create new approaches in clinical research and to develop two innovative antibacterial molecules to address antibacterial resistance against Gram-negative bacteria. It’s encouraging to see movement in this area and I hope the initial recommendations from the Jim O’Neill review will catalyse further action.
Finally, a quick reminder that the 7th Innovation Prize is now open for proposals until 22 April. Last year, for the first time, two teams from Switzerland were awarded the grand prize – split into ‘Best Biotech’ and ‘Best Medtech’. You can find out more about the prize here.