As we start the half-term week where things tend to quieten down for a few days, it is worth reflecting on a busy time in policy as various initiatives and meetings closed down before Parliamentarians too take a mid-term break.
Last Tuesday, as part of Life Science UK, we convened the first meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Life Sciences in 2016 on the topic of access to funding for the life sciences sector. MPs Kit Malthouse, Chris Green and David Rutley heard from representatives from the medical biotechnology, medtech, in vitro diagnostics and pharmaceutical industries, discussing fiscal initiatives that work well for the sector. Guest speaker Graham Silk, Chair of the Greater Birmingham Life Sciences Commission, spoke about the potential that the devolution agenda has to offer new funding models. Attendees also voiced their thoughts on proposals out of the recent Spending Review and Nurse Review, such as the shift of £165m of Innovate UK grants to new financial products and how they can best be shaped to suit innovative R&D in high-risk sectors like bioscience. This is a topic on which the BIA continues to engage with relevant policymakers.
The meeting took place the day before the BIS Select Committee closed its inquiry on the topic of access to funding. The BIA took the opportunity to input to showcase our sector’s perspective on this important issue. Last week also saw the close of the consultation of the Cancer Drugs Fund consultation and the final stakeholder event on the Accelerated Access Review before the final report is published in April. The BIA continues for both policy initiatives to be viewed in parallel and the importance of ensuring a consistent and globally compelling definition of the early designation breakthrough model here in the UK.
I was disappointed not to be able to be at the MediWales event on Thursday in person but feedback from the team is that this was a brilliant opportunity to meet the best in Welsh biotech with some informative company showcases, including Purolite and Neem Biotech, profiling the great companies growing in Wales. Chris Mayo from the London Stock Exchange highlighted the strength of the markets and we hope that this will encourage more Welsh companies to engage with the London Markets as they seek the financing that they need. As if in a show of the current market strength, it was great to see BIA member Shield Therapeutics float on AIM at the end of last week – congratulations to the Shield Therapeutics team. I was also interested to note a piece in this week’s Sunday Times, speculating another big London listing for 2016 in the form of new BIA member, Oxford Nanopore – read it here. Both positive signs that the UK IPO window remains open despite a choppy global market.
A big thank you to BIA members GE for hosting the event at their impressive Innovation Village site and providing all visitors with the opportunity to check out their labs and facilities.
Elsewhere in the community, applications for the Royal Society’s Pairing Scheme are now open until 9 March. The scheme is an opportunity to build greater cooperation and awareness between the political and scientific spheres. Each year 30 research scientists are paired with UK parliamentarians and civil servants to learn about each other’s work by spending time together in Westminster and the researcher’s institutions. Those taking part gain an insight into how research findings can help inform policy making, and come away with a better understanding of how they can get involved. If you’re interested in taking part, more information is available here.
Finally, I look forward to seeing many of you at the BIA Committee Summit at the end of next week at Simmons and Simmons. I’ve seen some fantastic agendas from all of the committees and some ambitious priorities for the year so this should make for an action packed event that truly showcases the collective power of the BIA membership. Registration for the event will close on Friday, so do sign up here if you plan to attend. In the lead up to the event, we’ve been showcasing the work of some of our committees on the BIA blog including the Intellectual Property and the Finance and Tax Advisory Committees. Do take a look.