Oxford Dinner

A packed update for you this week following lots of activity in the lead up to the Easter break.

I was delighted to attend the launch of the new Advanced Therapy Manufacturing Taskforce of the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) last week. Co-chaired by Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman and Ian McCubbin, GlaxoSmithKline, the new taskforce will be working to identify opportunities and actions to anchor advanced therapy manufacturing and the associated supply chain in the UK and to identify any gaps in the manufacturing landscape that need to be tackled.

Working together through the KTN, ABPI and the government’s Office of Life Science the taskforce is committed to delivering “a business plan” built on existing UK assets to articulate a clear vision for the growth of the sector and a simple but ambitious plan for the coming years with 3- 5 big asks with the associated risks. The taskforce has committed to complete its work this year.  It’s vital that the UK becomes not just a great laboratory for advanced therapies but a great place for them to be manufactured and commercialised. The MMIP taskforce will play a key role in ensuring that this leading sector of modern UK manufacturing continues to grow and produce these ground breaking therapies that will help to solve unmet patient needs both in the UK and its export markets.

Taking the opportunity to engage with a different community, on Wednesday we travelled to Oxford to host a dinner (pictured above) bringing together CSOs and CMOs from within BIA membership. There were some great discussions over dinner around building upon our engagement here and over the coming weeks we’ll be proposing some news ways in which we connect this crucial network in our community in the future.

On Tuesday I appeared before the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee to give evidence on the impact of European regulation on UK life sciences, following the BIA response we submitted to the inquiry earlier this month. Throughout 2016 we’ve been working to ensure that the voice of the UK life sciences industry is heard loud and clear in the Brexit debate. BIA members have said they believe the industry will be stronger if we remain in Europe and we will continue to push this message over the coming months. If you’re interested in adding your voice to this issue, please get in touch, and you can find out more about our recent advocacy work in this area here.

Elsewhere on policy, there was movement on the Accelerated Access Review (AAR) as we gear up to the final report. Since the interim report was published last October, the AAR team has commissioned research on key questions to support this work. The findings have now been published and can be viewed here. I look forward to seeing the final report in the coming months.

Also on policy, we submitted a short response to the government’s review of the REF – the Research Excellence Framework that assesses the quality of university research and informs how funding is distributed. In line with members’ views, we recommended that the REF’s approach of assessing wide-ranging impacts (which included increased life expectancy and improved quality of life) is a positive step and should be continued. We also recommended that the weighting of impact relative to output (primarily publications) should be increased.

On antimicrobial resistance (AMR), Jim O’Neill’s review team published the latest in their series of reports, looking at the central role that infection prevention, control and surveillance need to play in combatting the rise of drug-resistant infections – you can read the report in full here. And it was fantastic to see BIA member Redx Pharma, whose pipeline includes programs that seek to address drug resistance, raise an additional £10 million last week following their listing on AIM a year ago.

Taking a different approach to fundraising, congratulations also to Axol Bioscience who, through crowdfunding site SyndicateRoom, have surpassed their £600,000 target to raise £1 million – a great result. It was also interesting to see BIA member Scancell revealed as SyndicateRoom’s first Public Market Placing, following their partnership with the London Stock Exchange announced earlier this month. The use of crowdfunding platforms has become an increasingly popular fundraising method within the biotech sector over the past year following Cell Therapy’s near £700,000 record in February 2015. Certainly an interesting space to watch.

A month ago I mentioned progress of the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill, regarding the appropriate use of innovative approaches in medicine. The Bill has evolved since its original incarnation as the ‘Saatchi Bill’ to address concerns around patient protection and medical negligence, and it also now includes clauses to establish a national database recording the use and results of innovative and off-label medical treatments. To keep you up to date, last week the Bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords and received Royal Assent, meaning it has passed into legislation. How the new database will operate and how it fits alongside the present regulatory system, its impact on clinical trials and its impact on safety reporting are key issues of concern.

Finally, the Academy of Medical Sciences 2016 FORUM Annual Lecture takes place on 6 April. It promises to be another great evening with Dame Julie Moore, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, presenting on ‘Breaking down the barriers between research and practice to improve productivity in the NHS’. BIA will be in attendance and if you’re interested in finding out more, further details are available here.