Jane OsbournAs we hurtle towards the end of January and the first BIA board meeting for 2016, new BIA board chair Dr Jane Osbourn shares her vision for the organisation and the British biotech sector.

The BIA has set out a very challenging and ambitious vision for 2025, and it is important that we as an industry push ourselves so we continue to build our globally competitive edge. The aims set out in the vision are for the long-term. Our industry works on long development times and we need to build our capabilities for sustainability.

As UK biotech looks at how it can evolve, it’s vital that we learn from the more established clusters around the world and see what has worked for them. One of the most important roles that the BIA board plays is building relationships at international level so that we can share ideas and learn from the best in the business wherever they may be. Although it’s important to differentiate ourselves, we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.

There is also a lot we can learn by collaborating more in the UK and this is something that I will be personally encouraging through my tenure as chair of the BIA board. Throughout my career I’ve interacted with the BIA and reaped the benefits of working with its advisory committees – by working together we can help drive success in the industry. To find out more about the work of each of the committees and where you and your organisation could be part of their work, why not join us for the committee summit in February.

The BIA has been at the forefront of creating an environment that makes the UK stand out from international competitors. The UK is home to two of the world’s top three universities for life sciences and we’ve got a very strong connection between that academic base and small biotech. The Biomedical Catalyst scheme has helped us build small biotech and done a great job of translating academic excellence. A key focus in 2016 will be to lobby for fit for purpose funding schemes following the 2015 comprehensive spending review.

There are 4,398 life sciences companies and their sites developing, manufacturing and marketing products and services to the UK and global markets. The collaborative opportunities in the UK are really exciting, across academia, biotech and big pharma, who have been adapting their collaborative approaches to become more flexible and open about information sharing. In addition in the UK, we’re also getting more creative and ambitious about how our biotechs are evolving their business models. The focus has moved from early exits for biotechs to scaling up the business in a long-term, sustainable way.

The economic environment is also working to support the industry and the UK government has done a really good job in providing an optimal fiscal environment for the sector. It is a great result to see that, following the Government’s Spending Review at the end of last year that the science budget has been protected in real terms.

If we are going to scale our sector with the level of ambition that we’ve put out there, we’re going to need well over a hundred new companies and they’re going to have to be taking candidate drugs into the clinic. In 2016 the BIA will be looking at how we can support growing our biotech talent pool, building our managerial depth and experience in the UK, and ensuring we keep that talent in the UK to help our sector grow. We will also be looking at how our sector can more proactively engage with the investment community to ensure the growth opportunity is understood. And finally we have an opportunity that differentiates us from all other competitors, the NHS. We can use the NHS to deliver real patient benefits and we want to work at the interface to help support schemes that enable rapid patient access to innovative medicines.

Our sector has a great track record in the UK and it’s important that we celebrate our successes in solving unmet patient need so that the importance of our sector is recognised by as wider audience as possible. We have the capability to be one of the top three biotech clusters in the world, and if we work together across the sector to support UK growth we will deliver this vision.

I look forward to working with you all over my two year tenure and seeing many of you this week at the BIA Gala Dinner.