bioProcessUK 2015 dinner

This week: our first thoughts following last week’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement; highlights from this year’s bioProcessUK Conference; and simplifying the UK Medicines Manufacturing Landscape – a new web portal from the KTN on behalf of the MMIP…

The big news from last week (aside from the monumental $160bn Pfizer/Allergan deal) was of course the much anticipated 2015 Spending Review and Autumn Statement. As this was a top-line statement, we do not have all the answers yet and relevant details will form over the coming weeks and months, but there are some strong signals of the direction of travel that are important to note.

Whilst further details are yet to emerge, the fact that the science budget is protected in real terms, rising to £5.2 billion by 2020, is incredibly positive in the wider context of cuts. This is testament to the collaborative effort from the science community to underline the importance of science investment, as set out in the BIA’s Spending Review evidence pack. It is also great to see a new announcement of an initial £4m investment to establish an Antimicrobial Resistance Centre of Excellence in Research and Development at Alderley Park.

Following the publication of the Nurse Review last week, the Spending Review confirms that structural change is underway for Research Councils. Subject to legislation the Government will introduce a new body, Research UK, which will work across the seven Research Councils. The Government will look to integrate Innovate UK into Research UK in order to strengthen collaboration and commercialisation between academia and the business community, though Innovate UK will retain a separate funding stream and business focus.

Innovate UK looks to have received a flat cash settlement and some of their existing grants will be replaced with loans, meaning existing schemes like the Biomedical Catalyst may not continue in their existing form. What is essential now is to track this development and ensure fit for purpose initiatives are developed for high risk, high innovation sectors such as bioscience and that Innovate UK can continue to effectively bridge the valley of death for early stage research in life sciences.

The BIA is also concerned that the rate of the new apprenticeship levy could have significant and arguably unfair impact on firms operating in sectors such as life sciences where the proportion of employees in highly skilled and qualified roles is higher and we will be seeking further clarification on proposals from the Government.

For more on the above, do read our blog from the day detailing our first thoughts on the statement.

It was great to see the bioprocessing community out in force last week with over 300 attendees descending upon the new Wellcome Trust Genome Campus for the 12th Annual bioProcessUK Conference, “Manufacturing tomorrow’s medicines today”. Advances in biologics have catalysed an evolution in the medicines manufacturing industry in recent years, and will continue to do so going forward. This evolution brings with it both opportunities and challenges – something highlighted by Dr Mark Carver, this year’s recipient of the Peter Dunnill Award, in his lecture on Wednesday evening. Also looking to the future, Melanie Georgiou, UCL, was the winner of the Poster Flash competition, beating off stiff competition from 14 other young researchers, for her fascinating presentation of her academic research into an off-the-shelf therapy for spinal cord injury. Many congratulations to Melanie, and to all the young researchers who took part.

Following a fantastic conference dinner at the iconic Imperial War Museum, Duxford, on Thursday morning delegates heard the latest in the cell therapy space, with a focus on the recent explosion in T cell therapies and also an update on the Cell Therapy Catapult’s £55 million cell and gene therapy manufacturing centre in Stevenage.

The conference also saw the launch of a new web portal, designed by the KTN on behalf of the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP), which provides a simple and accessible platform outlining the UK’s strengths and capabilities in medicines manufacturing. It was great to have Mark Bustard, KTN, presenting on the day to provide a walk-through of the portal at the conference. More information and details on how to use the portal can be found here or access the portal itself

We are already looking forward to events for 2016 with our Events flyer – download here and get the dates in your diary.