Budget2015Last Wednesday saw Chancellor George Osborne set out the final Budget of this Parliament, ahead of the General Election. I’ve outlined some of the more interesting announcements for the life science sector below, but do read our full summary for further information. We’ll also be holding a webinar on the topic this Thursday from 11am for those who want to find out more. Join us for a discussion hosted by myself and with the incoming Chair of our Finance and Tax Advisory Committee, Colin Hailey – we’d  be interested to hear your views.

From a life sciences perspective, there were some notable “wins” contained within the Budget off the back of previous BIA lobbying, including wins on advance assurance and the operation of tax advantaged venture capital schemes, following submissions to recent consultations. It’s great to see from this Budget statement that Treasury has listened to the BIA and its members – see our press release for more details on these topics.

However for a Budget that declared it was making new investments in science and manufacturing, some of the wider science community were left a bit wanting. Items of specific interest to the life sciences sector, and to be welcomed, include supportive government funds, measures to enable and improve investment, a supportive tax environment, and regional initiatives. Around a rhetoric of investing in the UK’s future scientific success, Osborne set out a number of areas of government support, including the reinvestment of up to £30 million from the sale of MRC assets to support research at the Francis Crick Institute, with matched funding from Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust in an extra boost to the project’s long term security.

A number of other measures that may have indirect benefits for the life sciences industry include a near doubling of funding to UKTI for activities in China, including a focus on the advanced manufacturing, healthcare and life sciences sectors, and the announcement of a £195 million Fleming Fund to tackle antimicrobial resistance in response to initial recommendations of the O’Neill review.

Although this Budget will be delivered, debated and voted on in the form of the Finance Bill (to be published tomorrow), an emergency Budget will follow the General Election so the significance of this Budget and the pledges made within it – whether they will be upheld or rewritten – will not be certain until after the election. So watch this space for further developments through 2015, we’ll keep you posted.

In a boost for the life sciences sector across Europe, Irish investment company Malin raised €330 million in one of the continent’s biggest ever life science IPOs, backed by Neil Woodford amongst others – with plans to follow up with a dual listing in London. The company plans to invest in early-stage companies and has already committed money to seven firms, including BIA member Kymab. This is great news for the biotech ecosystem, supporting early-stage companies to get their promising products to market.

Also on funds, it was great to hear Jeremy Hunt announce details of a $100 million venture capital fund for dementia research, with investment from major worldwide pharmaceutical companies – including a number of BIA members – alongside the government and charity Alzheimer’s Research UK. Bringing together a raft of expertise from government, industry, charity and financial backgrounds, the Dementia Discovery Fund once again highlights the UK’s leading efforts in tackling this global issue, investing in the pioneering research which could ultimately lead to the development of a new, effective treatment to tackle dementia.

Last week we joined in the celebrations for the EMA’s 20th anniversary – a great day with the opportunity to both reflect on how far the industry has come over the last two decades and to look forward to future goals, with some interesting speakers and presentations. A video from the day will be available shortly, and you can already access slides and related information from the EMA website. The Agency has also produced a 20th anniversary book, which captures the important progress in regulatory science and changes in medicines regulation in the last 20 years – worth a look if you haven’t already.

Until next week

Best,

Steve