As always, it was good to catch up with members at our CEO Dinner in Oxford last Wednesday, where discussion focused on the Biomedical Catalyst (BMC). Our first speaker was Elaine Evans (pictured), Lead Technologist with responsibility for the BMC programme at Innovate UK, who outlined the history of the BMC and its awards so far. Elaine also introduced Charles Levy from Ipsos Mori, who will be evaluating the effect of the BMC by looking at its processes, its impact during and beyond the lifetime of a funded project, and at its effects on the wider R&D and investment landscapes. Glide Pharmaceutical Technologies’ CEO Mark Carnegie-Brown talked about the crucial impact of the BMC for Glide at a time when high net worth investment was not forthcoming, and how it has enabled them to take their platform technologies forward and towards the clinic. As you might expect the dinner discussion was lively, with varied feedback and some interesting viewpoints shared. What do you think – should the BMC target early stage companies only or should follow-on BMC funding be there to support the next stage too? Do you agree that the fund should be not only re-filled but increased by the next government?
The next day kicked off at Milton Park with another in our series of BIA Breakfasts, where we heard experiences and top tips to make companies ‘investor ready’ from Prosonix’s David Hipkiss, Oxford Immunotec’s Peter Wrighton-Smith, and Pharmaventures’ Fintan Walton. We heard the importance of establishing great teams, and of ‘smelling’ the quality of potential investor money, as well as talking Reaganomics and pension funds, knighthoods and crowdfunding. Take a look at our events page for our next CEO Dinner and Breakfast with BIA, in Cambridge in May.
On the topic of BIA events, details for our inaugural BIA Committee Summit, taking place on 29 April at Oxford Town Hall, are now available. The BIA’s eight Advisory Committees are crucial mechanisms for highlighting the most relevant issues facing bioscience companies. For the first time the eight committees will be meeting on the same day and presenting their objectives and key issues to the wider BIA membership. The summit will start with a networking lunch at 12.00 and end with a drinks reception taking place until 19.30. The summit is open to all BIA members and everyone is invited to arrive for lunch and to stay for the post-summit networking. This is a great opportunity to meet members of other BIA Committees, hear from all Committee Chairs on priorities for 2015 plus hear from BIA on other broader activity, so I hope to see many of you there.
It’s really important that everyone registers for the meeting they will be attending via the online system. The registration process should be simple and straightforward. Please use your work email address and your organisation’s details will populate automatically. Click here and choose the committee meeting you would like to attend.
At the start of the week we had been anticipating the Medical Innovation Bill potentially having its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons, following previous debate in the House of Lords. Late last week a change to the timetable was quietly posted on the Parliament website delaying debate for a week without explanation. The weekend gave us more clues as to why. Health Minister and Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb issued a piece in the Telegraph explaining why the Liberal Democrats were withdrawing support for the Bill. The rationale given was that whilst sympathetic to the aims of the Bill, the way it was drafted gave rise to concerns and he stated “the best way to proceed is surely to appoint an eminent person examine what the barriers to innovation really are and how best to overcome them”. We had been alerted that several MPs had been prepared to stand up and block the Bill but either way it looks as if the Bill is unlikely to proceed in its current form during this Parliament. We will keep you updated in the short term, but the more interesting question in the long term is what are the risks and opportunities of a piece of legislation looking more widely at the barriers to medical innovation in the 2015-2020 Parliament.
At the close of last week the BIA submitted its response to HMRC’s consultation on how to improve access to R&D tax credits for SMEs. This consultation followed the government’s Autumn Statement announcement that it would introduce an advance assurance scheme for SMEs making their first claim. In our response we have pressed the benefit for advance assurance beyond a company’s first claim and stressed the importance for SMEs in having a dedicated point of contact at HMRC to navigate ongoing claims and issues. On a related point we have been contacted by HMRC to see if our members would like to submit company specific case studies demonstrating the impact of R&D tax credits on their business. This is a great opportunity to help us continue the case for R&D tax credits. If you are interested please contact Pamela Learmonth this week.
It was great to hear David Cameron announce an investment of over £300 million for dementia research, alongside a commitment to establish an international dementia institute in England within the next five years. Britain is already a world-leader in the fight against dementia and this new funding will further strengthen our research efforts. Alongside the UK’s endeavours, a new multi-million pound fund for targeted dementia research, with international investment from the private, public and charity sectors, is to be launched in the coming weeks. These announcements build on previous efforts in recent years to boost research into dementia, and an ambition laid down by the G7 to find a cure or disease-modifying treatment by 2025. It’s encouraging to see the UK once again leading the charge on an issue with such a large global impact.
Another announcement last week which propelled UK life sciences firmly into the global spotlight was the decision by the House of Lords to approve mitochondrial transfer in the UK, making Britain the first country in the world to legalise the technique – a significant decision not only for those affected but also in terms of political support for future controversial, pioneering medical treatments.
Finally, you should now have received or will be receiving the BIA membership survey this week. Please do take a look and complete it so we can get your feedback on how we best meet your needs as your sector trade association.