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.