Last week we reported back on the outcome of the election and what this means for the make-up of Parliament. This week we have seen the Prime Minister appoint his Cabinet and government Ministers. For our sector the key appointment to note is that George Freeman has been reappointed as the Minister for Life Sciences and Innovation sitting across the Department for Business and the Department of Health. This provides beneficial continuity and prominence for our sector in the new government and sets up the previously announced Accelerated Access Review as a key policy focus for the rest of 2015. The BIA is engaging with the Minister and his team on this at our Parliament Day on 25 June and we are keen to hear members’ views on this important issue.
However whilst there is much continuity from the make-up of the last government to the 2015 intake, there is also some change to note, much of it resulting from the appointment of Conservatives in posts previously held by Liberal Democrats:
- At the Department for Business, Sajid Javid replaces Vince Cable as Business Secretary, having previously sat at Cabinet for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and also bringing extensive Treasury experience to the brief.
- Also at the Department for Business, Anna Soubry is appointed to a new role as Minister for Small Business and Jo Johnson, younger brother of Boris and former head of the No 10 policy unit, takes the Science and Universities Minister spot from Greg Clark, who has been promoted to Communities and Local Government Secretary.
- Greg Clark seems to take the cities brief with him in his move from the Business to the Communities Department, with a newly appointed Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, James Wharton, reporting to Clark.
- The Northern Powerhouse is an area that has been linked to another new appointment, Jim O’Neill as Commercial Secretary at the Treasury. O’Neill, who has currently been leading on the AMR review, will be appointed to the Lords as a Conservative Peer.
- Other Peers being introduced to fill Ministerial posts include Francis Maude, the new Trade Minister; Davis Prior who joins the Department of Health as Minister for NHS Productivity (replacing Freddie Howe who moves to Defence) and Ros Altmann, the new Pensions Minister.
The BIA will begin engagement with this new political cast and is currently also further developing its position on two issues likely to dominate in the coming years – Europe and devolution – we’ll be further consulting you on your views on these issues – watch this space.
It’s been a busy week for Jim O’Neill. Alongside his appointment by David Cameron, the third report as part of his review into antimicrobial resistance was released on Thursday. Securing new drugs for future generations: the pipeline of antibiotics focuses on the need to boost the development of new antibiotic drugs, including a proposal for a global AMR Innovation Fund of around $2 billion to de-risk R&D and kick start basic research into new antibiotics. The BIA have ensured that Jim O’Neill will have a platform at the leading global industry BIO conference this summer, and it’s great to see that he sees this as “a starting point not an end point” to this important global debate. He will be able to present his ideas for a global AMR Innovation fund there and we look forward to being part of the discussion.
Also announced at the end of last week was the acquisition of Prosonix, a previous recipient of Biomedical Catalyst funding, by LSE-listed Circassia – great news for both parties. Circassia’s announcement also included details of another acquisition, that of Swedish company Aerocrine, bolstering their offering in asthma and creating “a world-class allergy and asthma specialty pharma business” – a fantastic boost for the UK ecosystem.
It was also great to see in the headlines this morning, news of the “groundbreaking” results from a trial of a cystic fibrosis therapy developed by BIA member, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which modifies the genetic defect that causes around half the cases of the disease. What’s fantastic to see is the development of Kalydeco from a treatment for a small population of patients, to now part of a combination treatment which could be effective in around 50% of cases.
In other BIA member news, I was delighted to hear that Dr Harren Jhoti of Astex Pharmaceuticals, and BIA Board member, was one of four leading industry experts elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences among this year’s cohort of new Fellows, alongside new Innovate UK CEO, Dr Ruth McKernan, Dr Menelas Pangalos of AstraZeneca and Immunocore’s Prof Bent Jakobsen – four great additions to the Academy Fellowship. Congratulations also to Dr Ian Wilding who was recognised with an honorary doctorate from Monash University.
On Thursday evening I was pleased to be able to attend the European finals of the OneStart Award – a fantastic showcase from the future pioneers of the biotech industry. Congratulations to London-based Keregen who walked home with the £100 000 grand prize, as well as a year’s free membership of the BIA. Check out our video of the week to find out more about the company.
In policy, the BIA has inputted to the latest Treasury consultation on EIS/SEIS scheme operation as part of a wider review of tax-advantaged investment schemes. In our response we welcome the implementation of changes we had previously called for, including differentiated treatment of ‘knowledge-intensive’ companies such as those operating in bioscience, in order to incentivise investment towards such high-risk innovative sectors such as ours.
The Stop Vivisection initiative finally had its public hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels last week, who now have until 3 June to decide their next move. After all the hype, the reality appears to have been a somewhat muted affair. Nature have written a comprehensive article on recent developments in the argument from across the continent, which you can access here. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any response over the next couple of weeks.
Earlier this month, the first in a series of medicines manufacturing workshops, delivered by the KTN in partnership with the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP), supported by the BIA and ABPI, took place in Liverpool. The KTN have now written up a blog from the event, which focussed on the development of supply chains for the future – take a look here.
Finally, six of the UK’s leading technology transfer offices (TTOs) – Imperial Innovations, ISIS Innovation, Cambridge Enterprise, UMIP, UCLB and Edinburgh Research and Innovation – have recently published a briefing paper explaining the role and achievements of TTOs, and answering some frequently asked questions. The paper, which can be downloaded here, is of particular interest following the publication of our vision for the life sciences sector in 2025 which highlights the need for improvement in technology transfer in the UK.
Look forward to seeing you in Cambridge for our dinner and breakfast at the end of the week, and I’ll report back on the highlights next Tuesday following the bank holiday.