London Breakfast 2016

It was great to see so many of you at the latest BIA breakfast in London last Thursday. With the Mayoral elections taking place in a couple of weeks, we heard the views of Kit Malthouse MP, Jonny Ohlson, Keith Powell and Sarah Haywood on what the next Mayor can do for life sciences in London.

As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Life Sciences and previous Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise, Kit Malthouse emphasised the importance of the life science sector to London’s economy. With Mayoral powers developing in terms of health, he sees an important role for the new Mayor in opening up the health service to be more innovative and welcoming to private sector research.

During his time in City Hall, Kit saw the creation and launch of MedCity under current Mayor, Boris Johnson. As CEO of MedCity, it was great to hear an update on the achievements of the organisation from Sarah Haywood, who highlighted the importance of utilising the capital city as an entry point and magnet to attract companies and investment to the whole UK sector.

Biotech entrepreneur Keith Powell discussed the lack of interest in the sector from the two leading mayoral candidates – a shame considering the tremendous research base in and around the capital.

Investment and funding were also key topics on the morning. Jonny Ohlsen, CEO, Touchlight Genetics describing the significance of EIS and his experience over the past decade – their importance echoed by Kit Malthouse.

Many thanks to BIA member Taylor Wessing for hosting and look out for our blog of highlights and pictures in the coming weeks.

On IP matters, last week the BIA filed an Amicus – or friend of the court – Brief to the US Supreme Court supported by an international coalition of biotechnology trade organisations, arguing that the decision of the Federal Circuit in the case of Sequenom v. Ariosa Diagnostics should be reconsidered. The Federal Circuit court ruled in 2015 that Sequenom’s foetal DNA test was not eligible for patenting.

The BIA has taken the lead in making this international argument because the invention on which this particular test case rests is British, originally from work at the University of Oxford. Sequenom’s patent has been awarded in a number of countries and was successfully defended at the European Patent Office. If the Federal Circuit’s ruling is upheld, US patent case law would be inconsistent with laws in Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan, among others.

Creating a divide between US patent law and the rest of the world is bad for the global biotechnology industry and bad for patients. It will disincentivise investment in the development of new diagnostics and medicines that save and improve the lives of patients. The US Supreme Court is expected to rule in June whether to take the case up for review – we’ll keep you posted on any developments.

The EU debate continues apace. Last week saw the intervention of US president Barack Obama whilst visiting the UK and, as predicted, the House of Lords report on EU membership and UK science was formally published – read it in full here. The debate will continue to move over the coming weeks with the House of Commons Health Select Committee also launching an inquiry into the impact of membership of the EU on health policy in the UK.

We’ve been watching out for more details on the Government’s National Innovation Plan since it was first mooted some months ago, and today the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has opened a ‘call for ideas’. This consultation is open until Sunday 22 May and is seeking ideas on how to encourage innovation and investment, and how to support companies to scale up the best ideas. The questions address regulation, access to finance, IP, infrastructure and more. These are all themes that are close to the heart of many, if not all, BIA member companies and we will of course be submitting a response. To find out more or get involved, do get in touch.

Elsewhere in the sector, congratulations to Dr Belinda Quinn on becoming the new CEO of the Precision Medicine Catapult – we look forward to working with her going forward.