Synbiobeta, London, 2015Last week was a busy one for the sector with a number of key events taking place, including SynBioBeta, the Anglonordic Life Science conference and the ABPI’s annual conference.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the SynBioBeta conference – pictured above – returned to London for the third year (see #SBBUK15 for a taste of the conversation), hosted by Imperial College’s SynbiCITE centre. Over 300 delegates attended from academia and industry, including many BIA members – from not only our Synthetic Biology Advisory Committee (Touchlight Genetics, Synpromics, Synthace, Ingenza, Chain Biotechnology and Biosyntha), but also the wider membership including AIM-listed Horizon Discovery. It’s great to see the growing recognition that companies don’t necessarily need to identify their activity as ‘synbio’ for this field to be relevant. The reality is that the majority of companies in biotech R&D and manufacturing can benefit from techniques that are covered in this forum, including massive scale up of affordable DNA synthesis, targeted gene or genome editing, synthetic promoters, intelligent modelling – everything at the interface of engineering, biology and data. Of course investment, entrepreneurship and the Lean LaunchPad were hot topics too.

The twelfth annual Anglonordic Life Science Conference took place on Thursday – merging the biotech and medtech offerings for the first time – with a record number of more than 300 decision makers attending from across the UK and Scandinavia. There were some great sessions and company presentations, including from BIA members Crescendo Biologics, BigDNA and Glide Pharmaceutical Technologies – see #anglonordic for a snapshot of what was covered on the day.

Former Prime Minister John Major was the after dinner speaker at the ABPI’s annual conference. He said he was unable to imagine any party would form an alliance with UKIP and was particularly strong on the impact to UK business of any break from the European Union – warning that “divorce with the EU would be final. There could be no reconciliation”.  The majority of the day had debated the affordability conundrum. I was particularly struck by Lisa Anson of AZ’s presentation on the scale of the challenge – showing just how slow access to NICE approved medicine remains for UK patients.

On that point the BIA has today inputted to NHS England’s consultation on specialised commissioning, where we have called for separate frameworks for the evaluation and commissioning of medicines and treatments for rare and very rare diseases whilst emphasising that NHS England must be clear in that its role is not one of assessment and evaluation. Please see our response and press release for more detail.

In other news, congratulations to all involved with the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) on its one year anniversary. Since its launch, the SIP has enabled over 2000 science sector employees to access apprenticeships and placements, as well as training and development – making great progress to ensure the UK life sciences sector has the talent it needs to flourish. For more information on the SIP, watch our previous ‘video of the week’ here and follow the links to our guest blogs from Cogent and Chair of the SIP board, Malcolm Skingle; and case studies from Fujifilm and Takeda on their SIP experience.

We finally saw the launch of the Woodford Patient Capital trust last week and, as predicted, it went off with a bang – raising a record £800 million and entering the FTSE 250 index. To coincide with the launch, our video this week features Neil discussing his view of the sector – watch it here.

On policy, the Royal Society has launched its annual pairing scheme – pairing 30 research scientists from industry and academia with UK parliamentary and civil servants. By spending time together in Westminster and the researcher’s company or university, participants can learn about each other’s work and gain a greater insight into how research findings can help inform policy making. This year will be particularly exciting with a Parliament full of new faces, so if you’re interested do get your application in – find out more on the website here or contact Rachael Mann.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing many of you at our first ever Committee Summit in Oxford on Wednesday. With over 170 due to attend, the summit is set to be an exciting meeting with updates from each committee and the BIA in general. We’ll be tweeting on the day using #committeesummit and look out for a round-up of the day in next week’s update. If you haven’t registered but would still like to attend please contact Cathy Smyth. On that note, the BIA’s Finance and Tax Advisory Committee have produced a useful briefing document on the variety of equity incentives companies can consider using to incentivise their work force. Check it out here.

For those heading out to BIO in Philadelphia this June we will be running our pre-event webinar and providing support for members attending. Also if you are exhibitor or attending with full partnering, there is still time to apply for a UKTI Trade Show Access grant. More information can be found here.

Finally a quick look at up-coming events. Our UK CEO and Investor Forum, the only UK-based event exclusively for senior bioscience management, is now open for registration and will be taking place on the 8/9 July in Weybridge. I look forward to seeing many of you there.