GalaDinnerSo the big news this week is the future of Britain’s membership within the EU will be decided in 4 months, with the in-out referendum now set for 23 June.

All eyes were on the EU summit in Brussels at the end of last week as David Cameron worked to secure an EU reform deal, aimed at keeping Britain in the EU. Following lengthy negotiations, and the tabling of multiple “English meals”, a deal was agreed late on Friday and subsequently the date for the UK’s first referendum on Europe for 40 years was revealed by David Cameron on Saturday. Having previously given evidence before the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on the influence of EU membership on UK science (our initial written response can be viewed here), BIA will continue to take a more proactive stance on this issue in policy and the media – so expect to see us in some press coverage this week.

Also on the policy front, on Friday we responded to a consultation on the proposal to integrate Innovate UK with Research UK, the accounting body that will link the seven research councils together. All these proposals have come out of the Nurse Review of research councils and the Spending Review late last year. We urge the Government to continue engaging with the sector as they flesh out their plans, so that Innovate UK can continue to support businesses to translate research, to innovate and to scale up, with a view to generating economic benefit. We also state that its essential that ‘business as usual’ be maintained for funding recipients during any restructure, and that fit-for-purpose initiatives must be in place to support high risk, high innovation sectors such as bioscience.

Elsewhere in the sector, it was positive to see T-cell therapies once again commanding the national (and international) headlines last week, following an announcement of encouraging early clinical trial results at the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). If you’re not familiar with the basics, this Guardian article contains a video explainer with some fantastic images. Progress in the field of immuno-oncology has been remarkable over the past few years – at our 2014 Annual Lecture, immunotherapy was identified as one of Dr Stephen Minger’s hot picks for the next 25 years – but it’s still likely to be a number of years before these treatments make it to market and ultimately into patients. Nonetheless, it’s good to celebrate such achievements in the sector.

A quick note on funding, as the Department of Health is to invest up to £10 million as part of a new SBRI competition aimed at supporting the development of vaccine candidates, vaccine platform technology and vaccine manufacturing technology. The competition opens at the end of the month, with the KTN running two consortium building events in support of the competition, taking place in London (29 February) and Edinburgh (4 March). More details on our Funding Opportunities page.

Finally, for those of you who need easing into the working week, photographs from our renowned Gala Dinner which took place at the end of January are available to view in full here or you can watch a slideshow of some of our favourites below.

Looking forward to some good discussions at our Committee Summit on Thursday – see you there

Best

Steve