RS labs to riches_600_300Following on from last week’s number of good news stories for biotech investment, the UK ecosystem saw a further boost as two US healthcare companies – Gilead Sciences and Mobiquity – announced their plans to move to London. The announcements were made as part of Boris Johnson’s mission to the US, and will generate an additional £26 million investment in the city. Keep an eye on our blog as we’ll be posting a round up from the mission from MedCity later this week. Meanwhile, Harriet Fear from One Nucleus was flying the flag for United Life Sciences in India last week during an oncology-focused trade mission to Bangalore and Mumbai.

In the world of industrial biotechnology (IB) and synthetic biology, BIA member Synthace announced a funding boost of £2.2 million to expand their bioengineering automation and further develop ‘Antha’, an open-source language that enables rapid automation of reproducible biological lab processes in potentially diverse fields. Synthace, Ingenza, Algenuity, CHAIN Biotech and other BIA members took part in the IB Leadership Forum’s IB Showcase event last week, which was by all accounts a great couple of days (see #IB15 to catch up on tweets). It’s great news that CHAIN Biotech won the IBLF Award for Most Promising SME. And it’s encouraging to see cross-disciplinarity, with industry chairs from several Leadership Councils including IB, synthetic biology and the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) discussing the bioeconomy. If an engineering-based approach to life science problem-solving could be of interest to your company, our Synthetic Biology Advisory Committee are keen to hear from the wider BIA membership so do get in touch.

More good news came in the form of Imperial College London’s plans to invest in a new facility at the Babraham Research Campus, which will support spin-out and scale-up companies and maximise the impact of research from universities. BIA member Abzena has been announced as the anchor tenant at the new site, which will enable scientists and support teams from its subsidiary businesses, Antitope and PolyTherics, to be housed in the same building and in a cutting-edge R&D environment.

On the topic of world-class lab environments, last week’s Panorama ‘Can you cure my cancer?’ included footage inside Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)’s ‘mouse hospital’, where researchers carry out pre-clinical testing of candidate cancer drugs. It’s well worth a watch as a great example of how organisations like the ICR are helping to make animal research better understood as part of wider public dialogue about medical research and scientific progress.

The Royal Society, the British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) last week launched a pre- general election report ‘Building a stronger future: Research, Innovation and growth’. Page 7 rightly mentions the need for effective policies to support industrial strategy, including policies on access to finance. I was delighted to be able to host a table at the Royal Society ‘Labs to Riches’ evening last week, it was fantastic to see the vibrant network of UK science celebrating and endorsing translational success.

The following day was the AMS’s FORUM Annual Lecture, featuring a keynote from Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP (busy as ever!) and a panel discussion with the three Life Sciences Champions Sir John Bell, Chris Brinsmead and John Jeans. AZ’s Mene Pangalos brought up the subject of the need for funding to support translation and to retain that activity here in the UK, and I’m pleased that the panellists recognise this; Brinsmead suggested we should be more courageous, we must attract investment capital, and the Treasury should look at tax advantages; while Jeans agreed we need to build up a UK investor base and Bell noted that the Minister is thinking hard about the value of long term patient capital.

We also always have to be patient about real world data and I was glad to see our Charity partner from 2013, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, comment on new England and Wales data from the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Registry which have revealed that BIA member company Vertex’s drug Kalydeco, rapidly adopted by the NHS in the last two years, has significantly increased patient lung function. This reinforces calls for it to be made available to further patients with rare CF genotypes.

Also a quick note on funding opportunities as EuropaBio’s Most Innovative European Biotech SME Award is open for applications – this is taking place earlier than usual this year, and applications will close on 6 April. The 2013 winner was BIA member PsiOxus Therapeutics, so I’d encourage you to apply if you can and fly the flag for innovation in UK biotech.

Finally, I just wanted to flag to you that we are about to commence a BIA membership survey. Members will receive an email from Research by Design with the survey appended – I really encourage you to complete it so we can get your feedback on how we best meet your needs as your sector trade association.