BBC_Crowdfunding_FINALA warm welcome back to you all following the Easter break – time to start to gearing up for Q2!

Since our last Newscast, Parliament has been dissolved and we’ve officially entered the General Election campaign period. We’ll be keeping an eye out for party pledges that bear relevance to the UK science and business environment, and will communicate the most important points over the coming weeks. Parties will publish their manifestos in the coming week and Nature have published an interesting article that sets out the minority parties’ standpoints on science, and the British Science Association have just released a series of films of in-depth interviews with science spokespeople from each of the six major parties.

Over the weekend the Conservatives pledged to guarantee an £8 billion increase in NHS spending each year above the rate of inflation, aiming to meet the £30 billion funding gap identified by NHS chief executive Simon Stevens by the end of the decade. This brings the party into line with the Liberal Democrats, who have made the same commitment. But at the launch of the Labour manifesto today, Miliband called the Tories’ pledge an unfunded ‘IOU’.

In line with BIA’s areas of lobbying activity, the Labour health manifesto states that the party will ensure there is a clear route into routine commissioning for innovative treatments, as well as supporting the work of the Health Research Authority to streamline the process for setting up clinical trials and ensuring that NICE is fit for the future.

The full Manifesto makes no commitment to protecting the science budget ringfence, which is something many science policy campaigners have called for, although it does mention the importance of scientific discovery and says Labour will ‘introduce a new long-term funding policy framework for science and innovation, providing the stability and continuity that our companies and research institutes need to succeed’. It also mentions strong links between industry and universities, establishing a British Investment Bank to improve access to finance for SMEs, maintaining the most competitive corporate tax rates in the G7, and that membership of the European Union is central to our prosperity and security.

In an encouraging mark of investor support in the sector, it was great to hear that Woodford Investment Management has raised the ceiling of its Patient Capital Trust to £800 million and is expected to close this week. The investment trust, which will invest in early stage businesses and scientific IP emerging from British universities, had an initial target of £200 million with the option to increase to £500 million but was increased due to high demand. If successful in raising the full amount, Woodford Patient Capital Trust would enter the FTSE 250 and become the 40th biggest investment trust in the UK – a great boost for the sector.

Also on fundraising, over the Easter weekend the BBC broadcast a short report into crowdfunding in the biotech sector, featuring an interview with myself and UK biotech Venomtech, who are based at BIA member Discovery Park. For those of you who weren’t up at the crack of dawn on Good Friday to watch it, the clip is available here for the next few weeks – skip to 5’ 40’’ to catch the feature.

Our sister organisation, EuropaBio, carried out a survey in partnership with the Deerfield Institute on the current state of regulatory and health technology assessment (HTA) advice with a special focus on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The survey report, published in March, provides SMEs with some useful advice on regulatory/HTA interfaces as well as assisting them in developing a strategy on how best to approach regulators and payers alike. I believe this will improve access to innovative medicines in Europe. As we possibly move towards a pan-European assessment of relative effectiveness, we need to ensure that the regulatory part of the process continues to be based on demonstration of quality, safety and efficacy of the medicine.

The Academy of Medical Sciences recently launched a ‘call for input’ as part of a major working group project on the Health of the Public in 2040. The project aims to explore aspirations for the UK’s future health and identify the key factors likely to drive the direction of travel over the next 25 years. The Academy hope to use this insight to focus in on the research evidence that will be needed to address current gaps and uncertainties and to identify the broader requirements for supporting, delivering and realising the value of this research, in order to maximise public wellbeing. If you’re interested in providing your views, the call for input can be accessed here.

Finally, on upcoming events – the first in a series of medicines manufacturing workshops, to be delivered by the KTN in partnership with the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP), supported by the BIA and ABPI, will be taking place on 6 May in Liverpool. Hosted by Actavis, the interactive workshop will explore and discuss supply chain challenges and examine supply chain issues faced in the manufacture of small molecule, biologic and cell therapy medicines. It will also bring together experts from other sectors with a view to sharing best practice and considering next generation supply chains. For further information do get in touch with Mark Bustard and request registration via Jean Aligorgi.