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.