Archives for the month of: September, 2015

IMG_1675_editLast Thursday we travelled to Stevenage for the latest in our series of BIA Breakfasts, focused on science and finance. Among those speaking at the event was David Miles, Co-Director and Head of Business Development, AKL Research and Development. In today’s blog, David provides an account of the decision to redomicile the company in the UK, now based at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, in order to benefit from the current UK business environment, as told at the BIA Breakfast.

AKL Research & Development Limited (“AKL”) is an emerging pharmaceutical development company with a disruptive approach to drug development. The company develops synthetic drug candidates from natural products, whose safety and efficacy have already been established in non-prescription markets and then moves to proof of concept through robust clinical evaluation.

To date, AKL has successfully taken a formulation via this process to a Phase II clinical trial in respiratory disease. However given the challenges of regulatory compliance for naturally derived drugs, AKL has resolved to focus on synthetic versions of natural products such as its current area of focus, APPA in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA).

When we did what for us was a major funding in 2008, our investor base was largely US and central American. On their insistence at tax efficiency, the company was moved offshore.

IMG_1691_editSince then we’ve seen quite a turnaround in the UK environment for small companies like AKL, so in April of this year, AKL was effectively redomiciled in the UK as AKL Research & Development Ltd.

This has not been without its challenges. The cost of moving companies from one jurisdiction to another is challenging, expensive and time consuming, particularly considering our fairly large investor base of angels, friends and families. Dealing with UK bureaucracy is also quite involved, especially compared to the more relaxed approach found offshore.

But in spite of these challenges, the positives have far outweighed any negatives and we remain very happy to have made the move. For a small company like AKL, R&D Tax credits make a substantial difference. The Patent Box was also a very persuasive reason for our existing shareholders in supporting the UK move.

From a funding perspective, prior to being based in the UK we managed to fund early development and the first clinical trial with investments from four business angels / family offices, supported to a lesser degree by 15 family and friends.

Now we’re home, as it were, we have access to funding through High Net Worth Individuals and the considerable tax advantages available to them – EIS for example – and that really has made our life a lot easier. As it stands our investors have indicated a willingness, subject to successful completion of pre-clinical work, to continue funding APPA to clinical proof of concept.

IMG_1673_editFunding a small company is always tough and I think it would have been challenging to source affordable money by another route. In summary we’ve managed to fund the company entirely on private investment and at this critical juncture, this latest round of investment wouldn’t have been possible without the UK tax incentives.

Prior to the move,  we had thought that another advantage to being UK-based would be access to non-dilutive grant funds, however we’ve found the process of applying overly cumbersome: it’s very time consuming, bureaucratic, non-transparent and with no scope for discussion in the early stages. Ultimately, we’ve found it more productive and a better use of our time to source funding as described above.

That said, the positives – R&D Tax credits, the Patent Box, and the tax advantages for wealthy investors – far outweigh the negatives and we, and our investors, are very satisfied with our decision to redomicile the company in the UK.

For more information on AKL Research & Development, visit the website.

Our next BIA Breakfast will take place at BioCity Nottingham on Thursday 22 October. Find out more here.

IMG_1677_600x300We had a great morning in Stevenage last Thursday at the latest in our series of BIA Science and Finance Breakfasts (pictured above). Our guest speakers – Dr Malcolm Weir of Heptares, David Miles from AKL Research and Development, and Dr Andrew Lightfoot from Peptinnovate – provided lots of food for thought across a range of financing issues. We’ll have a blog from David Miles later this week, providing an account of their decision to re-domicile the company in the UK in order to benefit from the current UK business environment, as told at the breakfast.

Another hot topic at Thursday’s breakfast – and indeed across international media last week – was the tale of Hilary Clinton, Turing Pharma and the drop in US biotech stock prices. Having reached out to Jim Greenwood at BIO as the story began picking up speed, it was good to see that BIO have taken decisive action kicking out Turing pharma from membership. As Jim told me the company and its leadership do not reflect the commitment to innovation and values that are at the core of BIO’s reputation and mission. Even so, I fear that the industry’s reputation has already been damaged, and that the story of Turing pharma will be the prism through which the debate about prescription drug pricing will be seen in the coming US Presidential debates.

Some lively discussion as always – many thanks to those of you who came along to the breakfast, and to our speakers. Our next port of call as part of the series will be at BioCity in Nottingham on 22 October, more information available here.

We’re in the midst of party conference season now. Today and tomorrow BIA will be at the Labour conference in Brighton to get the current lay of the land in Labour politics and to host our regular breakfast roundtable, organised together with the AMRC and our Life Sciences UK partners ABHI, ABPI and BIVDA.

Last week our Public Affairs and Policy Manager Zoe was at the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth, as we seek to stay engaged with politicians across the board. At the Health Spokespersons’ Q&A session, Norman Lamb MP said the NHS needs up-front investment now in order to meet the challenges of the near future, and responded enthusiastically to the suggestion that updating NHS infrastructure in line with digitalisation, big data and self-monitoring technologies will lead overall to better patient health and efficiency savings. Former party leader Nick Clegg MP and new leader Tim Farron MP were clear about the party’s line on remaining in the EU and that the referendum is ‘far too important for ambivalence’; a topic that was discussed at length in relation to UK science, by a panel and audience of scientists and engineers at a Science Council fringe event. And at a session focused on effective financing for company development – with Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Economics Baroness Kramer, the British Venture Capital Association and the London Stock Exchange – the UK life sciences industry was mentioned several times in the context of scaling up ‘hard tech’ businesses. Circassia in particular was mentioned as a public listing that has helped to give the confidence to other company ‘peers’ to grow and invest in the UK, and sparked interest in UK biotech amongst specialist and cross-over investors.

In other news from last week, many congratulations to former BIA Chairman, Tim Edwards who was appointed to the Innovate UK board by Business Secretary Sajid Javid. With his knowledge and experience in this innovative sector – Tim is currently Executive Chairman at BIA member, Atopix Therapeutics, and a Non-Executive Director at the Cell Therapy Catapult – he will make a fantastic addition to the board.

On the regulatory front, we joined forces with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) to welcome NHS England’s new publication “What is a biosimilar medicine?”. The publication is a result of collaborative working between the Medicines and Healthcare product Regulatory Agency (MHRA), NHS England, National Institute of Health & Care Excellence (NICE), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the pharmaceutical industry trade associations.  The BIA has a long heritage in this debate and, along with our members, we have been happy to contribute to the development of this new document which we hope will be a useful guide to healthcare professionals and ensure that patient safety remains the primary driver when considering the introduction of biosimilar medicines to the NHS. You can download the report in full here.

I was interested to read Sir Bruce Keogh’s outline strategy for personalised medicine in the NHS, also released last week. The paper sets out the concept of Personalised Medicine within the NHS, the underpinning principles and sets out the work that will now be undertaken to develop a Personalised Medicine Strategy. I look forward to seeing the strategy develop and ultimately the use of precision medicine embedded within the NHS to improve patient outcomes.

On 17 September 2015, the ABPI, in partnership with the Academy of Medical Sciences, held a workshop on ‘real world evidence’. The meeting bought together industry, regulators (both EU and FDA) as well as policy makers to explore the acceptability of real world evidence for regulatory and HTA decision-making.  The BIA was represented at the meeting, which provided some full and frank discussions as participants shared their aspirations for how real world evidence might be accepted and used in a regulatory context by 2020, and the key challenges that will need to be overcome to achieve this as well as the practical steps that could be taken to address these challenges. A key theme that emerged was the need to have some established and agreed nomenclature and definitions, as well as the view that to progress the project further would require a coordinating body. For those of you who are interested, a video from the workshop can be found here, and a report of the workshop will be published in due course.

Finally, on Friday Professor Dame Sally Davies confirmed that she intends to step back from the day to day leadership role for Research and Development in the Department of Health and make space for another to take over. The Department of Health has therefore invited applications for the post of Chief Scientific Adviser & First Deputy Chief Medical Officer Department of Health. The letter from Dame Sally is available here and the job description is available here.

Best

Steve

In a few weeks, biologics manufacturer JHL Biotech will begin to take delivery of the largest single-use modular biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility in the world, supplied by GE Healthcare. It’s being constructed in Germany and shipped to Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province.

The sixty-two completed modules that make up the factory are now on a two and a half month journey, by road and boat, to Wuhan to be assembled into a working facility at the Biolake Science Park. Watch the video to find out more.

Watch our webinar with GE Healthcare from earlier this month on flexible manufacturing here. 

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

Hays Life Sciences_startupIn today’s guest blog, BIA member, Hays Life Sciences, take a look at the growth of life science start-ups and their impact on the industry. 

The life sciences industry is one of the most dynamic in the world, with growth and change occurring in every sector of the industry. The pressure of an ageing population combined with advances in technology and evolving business and medical models makes it fertile territory for new business start-ups.

There has been a recent increase in high profile companies not previously associated with the life sciences sector turning their attention towards investment in the industry, the most notable of which is Google. As a result, life sciences candidates may find their next career move coming from an unexpected source.

‘Big money’ is finding its way into the life sciences sector

Bill Maris from Google Ventures, the venture capital arm of Google, talking to Bloomberg in an interview earlier this year said:

“We’re interested in investing in companies that are helping people to live longer and healthier lives… We’ve put 36% of our capital into life science companies and the goal is to help people not die from diseases – not die from congestive heart failure or cancer or the sorts of things that affect life span.”

This move is part of a much broader trend. In the last three years, Atlas Ventures have been a source of biotech start-up capital, launching 20 new companies covering a range of different indications and therapies. In April this year it announced a $280 million fund focused on seeding and nurturing biotech start-ups.

While venture capital is a well-established principle in America and Asia – an estimated 10% of Singapore’s venture capital funds support the life sciences industry – this is less the case in Europe, where many academic start-ups rely on government grants for initial funding. Other investment models include private capital and equity crowdfunding.

Life sciences don’t just need money

If finding the money is half the battle, then finding the talent makes up the other half. But no matter where the money comes from, without the necessary human capital, start-up success will be limited.

In a recent Viewpoint interview, Riley Doyle, CEO and Technical Lead at Desktop Genetics, a rapidly growing biotech software company based in London, spoke to us about the challenge faced by many new life science start-ups:

“Finding the right candidate is definitely a challenge. In fact it has become so much of a challenge that we’re considering creating our own formal learning and development programmes.”

He went on to say that Desktop Genetics is already implementing learning and development programmes on an informal basis, in an effort to bridge the gap between job descriptions and presenting candidate skills.

Should candidates sit tight or consider working for a start-up?

Start-up entrepreneurs are typically set the task of finding highly qualified STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) candidates, who are also proficient in the management of large data sets and possess excellent business and interpersonal skills.

Such broad requirements, along with the fast pace and many client-facing activities which constitute start-up culture, may make working for traditional pharmaceutical companies seem like a better fit for some.

This is not necessarily so. While it may be true that pharmaceutical companies can offer a more generalised experience and opportunities for internal movement, as the start-up sector continues to expand, expect to see an increase in convergence of workplace experience between the two.

Today’s blog was taken from The Viewpoint. You can see the original article here.

Kate Griffiths_SIPScience industry SMEs’ take-up of training and development through the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) is having a high impact on business performance, according to the latest figures. The training evaluation survey, conducted by Cogent Skills, among learners who accessed co-funded learning from the SIP’s SME-focused “Skills for Growth” programme reveals where training is having the greatest effect on business. Here, Kate Griffiths, Skills for Growth Manager at Cogent Skills, discusses the results of the survey. 

Science industry SMEs’ take-up of training through the Science Industry Partnership (SIP), which is jointly funded by the Government and employers, * is having a significant impact on business performance.

The companies involved come from growth areas such as nanotechnology, synthetic chemistry and anaerobic digestion, as well as pharmaceuticals, Clinical Research Organisations (CROs), biotechnology and formulation.

We’ve now conducted a programme evaluation survey among learners who accessed the co-funded learning from the SIP  – it shows that 73% registered a high/very high training impact on addressing challenges in their roles while 69% said that learning input had changed the way they worked.

More than 50% of SMEs polled said the training programmes resulted in a high/ very high impact on cross-skilling and sustainable business growth (53%). Half of SMEs witnessed an increase in business as a consequence of training via the SIP.

SIP SME IconSo what does all this positive feedback tell us? Bob Redfern, managing director of High Force Research, one of the SMEs involved in the SIP training, sums it up – he says that as a chemical R&D company the SIP programme has helped the company identify the skills its needs to support business growth. Not just for training scientific personnel in technical matters, but also in people skills.

In other words, a funded programme, specifically designed for science industry SMEs, has given a real boost to sector skills. This kind of approach, which SMEs had long said was missing from the landscape, is now paying real dividends.

Interestingly, the most popular areas of training undertaken by SMEs in year one of the SIP is focused on market and data analysis, closely followed by leadership and personnel management. The next most sought-after training among SMEs covered regulation, then commercialisation and laboratory practice and formulation.

SME employers and employees have also welcomed the opportunity to use SIP training solutions quality assured against criteria developed by science industry SMEs, with 100% of the learners saying that they would recommend the SIP training to other companies.

We know that SMEs employing graduates need them to take on more supervisory tasks at an early stage in their career, and the leadership and personnel management training is particularly helping them to embrace more responsible job roles and become next generation leaders.

We’re delighted that the SIP programme has been widely adopted by the science SME community and it’s fantastic to see people returning to Cogent Skills for additional training and support. The feedback we are getting shows that the style of training is a very important factor.

Ultimately there is a clear application of the training on the business, it is high impact, short and has flexible delivery options – all important factors for SME managers.

SMEs have indeed welcomed the newer training methods available through the SIP, with 86% noting a high or very high impact from the programme’s style and delivery.

This has included how well the training applies to the industries themselves, quality assurance of training providers based on SME requirements, availability of shorter duration courses and on-site training. A long overdue, tailored skills approach for innovative, high growth SMEs and supply chain companies.

 * The SIP has been partly supported by HM Government with Employer Ownership funding

 

Melanie Lee speaks at our Women in Biotech evening

Melanie Lee speaks at our Women in Biotech evening

Continuing the trend of positive news over the last few weeks, I’m delighted to congratulate BIA member Circassia as they join the FTSE 250 today. This is a fantastic success for the sector and it’s great to see Circassia’s growth, going from strength to strength following their record-breaking IPO last year. Providing an attractive environment to encourage the scale-up of companies is a crucial factor towards establishing the UK as a global leader in biotech. The “Scale-Up Survey” is part of a major industry-wide campaign being rolled-out during the autumn which focuses attention on the UK’s high growth firms so we can ensure that the UK is the best place in the world for companies to both start-up and scale-up. If you have ten minutes, please do take the time to have your say by 30th September. You can access the survey here.

There was plenty of mention of life sciences in Parliament over the last week or so. On 8 September Dr Ruth McKernan, CEO of Innovate UK, gave evidence to the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s inquiry on the Science Budget. She made many points that would resound with BIA members (you can see all the evidence so far here) and in particular, she cited one of the case studies featured in our recent Biomedical Catalyst report: “There is very good evidence that if we spend public money on translation—I can give you examples—it benefits business and the UK and will provide us with sustainable economic growth. … A company called Summit had £2 million in funding from us, and we partnered with the MRC to do that. They had not been able to get funding for a project to try to come up with a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The reason why they had not been able to get funding was that it was a very creative way of treating the disease by changing the way the genes were turned on and off, and that is not traditionally how drugs work. Having got £2 million in funding from Innovate UK and the MRC, they very quickly got £44 million of investment after they had proven that their idea was feasible. It has now gone to the public market and their drug is in phase 2.”

And it was interesting to see that example brought up once again in a parliamentary question from Stuart Andrew MP to Jo Johnson, the Universities Minister, who agreed that “Science and innovation are among the UK’s greatest strengths, and the example my hon. friend gives – I believe he is referring to the drug discovery firm Summit plc – is a good example of the way public investment in R&D crowds in additional private investment. Every £1 the public invests in R&D crowds in an additional £1.36 of investment on average.”

In other parliamentary activity, a non-specialist briefing on the 100,000 Genomes Project was published for parliamentarians, the Lords Science and Technology Committee announced a new inquiry into the relationship between EU membership and the effectiveness of science, research and innovation in the UK, the Accelerated Access review has paused its online engagement to analyse the feedback received and prepare its interim report (note the final report is now expected in April 2016, rather than by the end of the year) and there was a ministerial statement on the move of Public Health England labs from Porton Down to Harlow.

We’ll be travelling near the new site on Thursday as we visit the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst for the next in our series of BIA Breakfasts. Dr Andrew Lightfoot of Peptinnovate, David Miles of AKL Research and Development and Dr Malcolm Weir of Heptares will be joining me to discuss some top financing tips – I hope to see some of you there.

As promised, our blog from the Women in Biotech evening (pictured), which took place earlier this month, is now live – do take a look.

In other BIA activity this week, we’re in Bournemouth as the party conference season kicks off with the Lib Dems – more updates to follow.

Finally, as in previous years, there will be a trade mission to the SynBioBeta synthetic biology conference in San Francisco this November. More details on the mission – which is led this year by SynbiCITE in partnership with BIA and UKTI, and will include 1:1 business meetings – are available via the KTN’s synbio special interest group.

Best,

Steve

Back to BIO 2015 for this week’s video, when Fintan Walton, CEO of PharmaVentures, caught up with BIA CEO Steve Bates on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

In the interview, Steve discusses the UK government’s five-year AMR strategy, the on-going Jim O’Neill review and the BIA’s efforts to help tackle this global issue.

PharmaTV

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

IMG_1644Last week, as part of the BIA’s Women in Biotech (WIB) evening, we were treated to an inspirational presentation from Melanie Lee, Chief Scientific Officer at BTG. Melanie was the guest speaker at our inaugural WIB event back in 2007 and it was fascinating to hear her perspectives on how both her career and the sector have progressed over the last eight years. With the event a sell-out, we’ve rounded up some of the highlights below for those of you who were unable to attend.

With over 25 years of experience, Melanie embarked upon her career in the life science industry around the same time that the BIA was founded. Since her last presentation to the Women in Biotech (WIB) network eight years ago, Melanie has filled the position of CEO at two very different companies and recently stepped down from the BTG board to become CSO. Her family life has also changed drastically – her then teenage sons have now left home and in 2012 she lost her husband and sister to cancer, a stark reminder of the importance of our sector and the work we do.

There are a thousand topics that can and should be addressed by our exciting and dynamic sector – it is perhaps the most complex industry that it is possible to find. How do we stay ahead of the game in such a challenging and changing environment, both personally and as an industry?

Taking risks

One of the top line messages emphasised during Melanie’s presentation was the importance of taking risks. We work in an uncertain industry with a low probability of success, as such we need to be comfortable with risk. Melanie outlined some examples of where she had taken risks in her career and frequently pushed herself out of her comfort zone. Such an attitude is essential in any career – being comfortable is the worst place to be.

Following the completion of her PhD, Melanie undertook two post-doc positions – one of which was with the legendary Sir Paul Nurse. Emphasising the importance of your network, Melanie mentioned that neither of her post-docs were advertised positions. In fact, she approached Sir Paul in a pub and asked him for the opportunity, highlighting confidence is key in getting to where you want to be.

When she last presented in 2007, Melanie worked for UCB. In 2010 she became CEO of Syntaxin, before moving on to Syncona-funded start-up NightstaRx and finally joining BTG as CSO earlier this year.

The talent gap

IMG_1637Looking at change in the industry itself over the past eight years, biotechnology has driven a transformation across the sector and we have witnessed some wonderfully successful companies contribute truly life changing therapies. We have some ambitious targets for our industry – the BIA vision suggests a target of 130 more clinical stage drug companies and management teams in the UK, and 30,000 to 60,000 additional high skill UK jobs by 2025.

The successes in biotech of the past 15 years have run on the back of the large pharma companies’ investment in people. So with the decline of large pharma, where is the training ground for our next generation of industry researchers? Mid-size companies must focus on people and bring on the next generation of leaders. This need not be a depleting activity – in fact the investment in people often parallels great success.

Continuing the theme of the past eight years, over the same period, BTG has successfully transformed itself from an IP commercialisation company with fewer than 100 employees, with revenue under £30m and a market capitalisation of a few hundred million, to a fully integrated specialist healthcare business employing around 1200 people, with revenue over £400m with a capitalisation of approaching £2.5 billion. One of the key drivers of BTG’s success, according to Melanie, is the attention paid to people – the company spends time offering training and identifying those with ambition and potential.

The potential for medical breakthrough has never been so great; however the potential to lose our industrial science base has also never been so great. Companies invested in this industry must be creative and take responsibility for keeping young people in the sector and in the UK. The leaders of today were trained by the giants of the past – who is training the next generation?

Interested in future WIB events? We have more planned for 2016 – keep an eye on our events page for details

PrintImanova is now inviting applications for the 4th IMPETus Pilot Grants Programme. The programme is open to academic researchers around the UK who wish to conduct a pilot Positron Emission Tomography (PET) study to generate early data in novel applications and support a full grant application. In the case study below, Imanova explore how the programme helped to facilitate a breakthrough in the field of Huntingdon’s disease.

The importance of PET imaging

Drug development is a time consuming, complex, risky and expensive venture. There is an increasing requirement to find ways to accelerate and reduce the cost of decision making so that only the best candidate molecules progress to the later stages of drug development.

Using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging, researchers can visualise the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion properties of a potential drug candidate. One of the key benefits of PET imaging is the ability to visualise candidate target-engagement in vivo. This allows researchers and companies to accurately predict the effectiveness of a drug within humans earlier in the drug development process, ensuring the resources are used efficiently and effectively. In addition to the PET imaging, utilisation of state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides advanced structural and functional information.

The IMPETus award is for PET and related MRI scans necessary to optimise the quantification of the PET data. The aim of the each project is the acquisition of pilot data sufficient to be used for independent research programmes, undertaken at Imanova. Previous successful applicants have benefitted through the scheme by generating valuable data to secure funding for more significant research in their field.

Case study

One of the projects that was previously granted the award was an [11C]IMA107 PET study to assess the expression of PDE-10A enzyme in Huntington’s disease gene carriers.

In this study, we used combined PET and multimodal MR imaging to assess the expression of the enzyme phosphodiesterase 10A (PDE-10A) in vivo in a unique cohort of 12 early premanifest Huntington’s disease (HD) gene carriers with a mean of 25 years before the predicted onset of clinical symptoms. The study identified that early premanifest HD gene carriers had abnormal expression of PDE-10A enzyme associated with the risk of symptomatic conversion.

The findings represented a major breakthrough in the field of HD by reporting the earliest biochemical abnormality identified in HD to date, and showing bidirectional alteration of PDE-10A signalling within the neuropathological salient networks in HD gene carriers up to 43 years before the development of overt clinical symptoms, which are crucial to prognosis.

Research projects assessing PDE-10A expression in neurodegenerative disorders such as HD and Parkinson’s disease have brought funding from high profile charities such as the Michael J Fox Foundation and gave the opportunity to apply for funding to several bodies. Collectively, these studies suggest an extended role for the importance of PDE-10A expression in the clinical presentation of movement disorders.

The above study is just one example of the potential impact of the IMPETus award programme.

These awards are extremely important for Imanova to realise their mission of enabling innovation in the drug development process through the application of imaging.

For more information on the 4th IMPETus Awards, visit http://bit.ly/1L16KYe.

Opening of CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory

Opening of CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory

Kicking off this week with more great news on the IPO front, as BIA member Acacia Pharma have announced their intention to float on the LSE main market. According to this morning’s FT, the Cambridge-based company plan to raise £150M – which would make the move the second-biggest pharma floatation in London since 2005, behind Circassia’s raise last year. Following Shield Therapeutic’s announcement last week, it’s certainly proving to be a lively return to business following the summer and 2015 looks set to continue to current positive trend in UK life science financing.

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks influencing policy, especially in two key areas: the Government’s upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review in November, and the Accelerated Access Review.

At the Spending Review on 25 November the Chancellor will announce where savings will be made over the course of this Parliament, via cuts in public spending. Our sector – like all others – will likely feel the brunt of cuts in government support to some degree, but it’s important that we make the case for UK life sciences. To this end, we’ve worked with a coalition of life sciences stakeholders to write a cross-sector letter to the Chancellor and an open letter that was published in the Financial Times last Tuesday; we reached out to members of the BIA and through our United Life Sciences partners to gather over 100 signatories from industry – an overwhelming message of support, contributing more than half of the nearly 200 total signatories. The FT’s science editor Clive Cookson wrote an accompanying article and the letter was also discussed on the Today programme (at 7.53am-8am: you can listen by finding that time here). Many thanks to you all for getting behind this joint effort.

BIA’s own activities for the Spending Review have been to make a formal policy submission to HM Treasury, submit evidence to the evidence to the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s inquiry into the Science Budget, and I’ve personally written to some key Ministers. In our responses, we highlight the need for continued long term government support for our life sciences sector. If you’re interested to learn more details, please do take a look.

On the Accelerated Access Review (AAR), the first phase of evidence collection closed on Friday. Many of you took part in our workshop with the Office for Life Sciences on BIA’s Parliament Day in June, and we also submitted a written input last week. The AAR team are due to publish interim recommendations this autumn, which should provide an opportunity to comment on more substantive proposals. At this stage, BIA’s input was a short focused response advocating for a joined-up and (crucially) reimbursed early access to medicines pathway. Our submission sets out the importance of this for the UK to be an attractive location for companies to develop promising therapies, and we look forward to engaging further with the Review upon its interim recommendations.

It was great to welcome back Melanie Lee as guest speaker at our Women in Biotech (WIB) event last Wednesday. Melanie was the speaker at our inaugural WIB event back in 2007 and it was fascinating to hear her perspectives on how both the sector and her career have progressed over the last eight years. It was a truly inspirational presentation to a vibrant and positive network. We’ll be writing up a blog from the event for those who are interested to find out more, so do keep an eye out. Many thanks to Boult Wade Tennant for hosting such a great evening.

On BIA events, please note that the BIA Annual General Meeting will take place on 15 October following the UK Bioscience Forum and preceding the Autumn Reception – it would be great to see you there. The ballot is now open for the election of five Directors of the BIA. Full details of the ballot process were sent to the primary contact at each BIA member organisation, but you can find all relevant information, including candidate profiles, here. Polling closes on 7 October 2015.

Last Thursday saw the official opening of the new CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory in Cambridge – an innovative collaboration between Cancer Research UK, its commercial arm Cancer Research Technology and MedImmune. The lab was opened by the Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman MP, who noted the importance of such collaborations in the translation of the UK’s great research into innovative new medicines. BIA Board member Dr Jane Osbourn, Site Leader and Vice President of Research at MedImmune, wrote us a guest blog on the new alliance last year, including details on its plans for the future. Read it here.

On IP matters, the BIA along with its American counterpart BIO and other industry groups, corporations and academics has supported a petition for the rehearing of a panel decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to the full court to overturn the recent patent ruling that could have a detrimental impact on the future of diagnostics and life-saving medicines. A prior panel of US appeals court judges has decided that Sequenom’s fetal DNA test patent was invalid as the newly discovered method ‘begins and ends with a natural phenomenon,’ and it is directed at ‘matter that is naturally occurring’.  If left unchanged, the panel’s decision could prevent any analytical or detection method that investigates something that is naturally occurring from being patent protected – de-incentivising the R&D investments needed to drive innovation. Filing for and obtaining patents enables organisations to protect their innovations  to allow them the opportunity to raise investment funding and licensing income so that these discoveries can be developed into life changing treatments and therapies that could save lives. You can read our full response here.

A quick note to alert you to HTA’s recently launched Codes of Practice and Standards consultation, which will run until 31 October. The consultation aims to gather feedback about the general structure, accessibility and content of the new Codes. Further information about the consultation, including how to respond is available on the HTA website.

I write this as Jeremy Corbyn MP the new Leader of the Labour Party is putting together his front bench team, and once we’ve heard what they have to say at Labour conference (in two weeks time) we’ll assess and update on who the new key figures are, and what this means for our sector.

Best,

Steve