There’s now less than a week to go until the biggest biotech event of the year, as BIO2016 heads to San Francisco. This year myself and Jane Thurgood will be there representing the BIA, joining a host of UK companies attending the conference – traditionally the second largest international delegation, second only to Canada.

If you’re one of the 15,000 delegates attending and missed our BIO webinar explainer last week, you can catch up here. It’s well worth a watch and details all the “need to knows” in a 30 minute round-up from myself, Diana DeJoy of BIO, John Lownds from UKTI and One Nucleus’ Harriet Fear. If you can’t spare the time, here are some quick-fire tips to help you out in San Francisco:

  • Transport: When you arrive into San Francisco International airport, you can travel directly to downtown San Francisco by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). If you’re arriving in rush hour avoid a taxi! Those of you who plan to travel more widely around the Bay Area should consider a Clippercard – San Francisco’s answer to the Oyster card.
  • The UK stand: UKTI’s stand is located in the North building, number 5744. Visit the UK stand for meetings and partnering. The stand reception will take place on Tuesday from 17.00 PST.
  • Partnering: For the BIO veterans amongst you, the main difference to note this year is that partnering will start from 13.00 PST on Monday. Partnering is located in both the West and South Buildings.

A couple of additional highlights in terms of activities: the One Nucleus Breakfast Seminar takes place on Monday morning from 08.00 PST; also on Monday morning, the London Stock Exchange host a breakfast seminar and panel discussion on ‘Raising Long-Term Growth Capital in London’; and on Tuesday evening head to the UKTI pavilion for the Life Sciences in the Northern Powerhouse Hospitality Reception, an informal drinks reception organised by Bionow.

There are some great UK speakers and talks at this year’s BIO, so do check them out if you’re able. And don’t forget to talk up the UK biotech industry yourselves while you’re out and about! I look forward to catching up with many of you out there next week.

Last week the UK was host to the European Conference on Rare Diseases & Orphan Products for the first time, as stakeholders from across the rare disease community gathered in Edinburgh. To coincide with the conference, the BIA launched a new briefing paper on Orphan Medicinal Products that looks into the 15 year application of the Orphan Regulation in Europe. The briefing paper explores the regulatory framework and the setting up of the Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products within the European Medicines Agency and raises awareness around the latest developments in this field.

The BIA continues to play an active role at EU level in influencing the regulations that have an impact on how UK bioscience tackles rare diseases. We have seen that the incentives of the Orphan Regulation have been essential in stimulating research and development of orphan medicines for rare diseases. It is therefore important that the requirements to demonstrate significant benefit of orphan medicines are appropriate, given the complexities of dealing with small patient populations and rare conditions to be treated. Read the press release here and download the briefing paper here.

I started last week in Oxford, meeting with member company CEOs, local academics and clinicians and the two local MPs Nicola Blackwood and Andrew Smith for a private roundtable discussion with Life Sciences Minister George Freeman. It was a really useful discussion on challenges and opportunities facing the sector and I was delighted to have a similar discussion with London based members and stakeholders with the Minister on Thursday.

The BIA is convening a series of these roundtables over the next month as part of a regional tour the Minister is undertaking to gain feedback from life sciences stakeholders on the issues facing the sector. Alongside these visits, George Freeman is making the case that the UK life sciences sector is stronger in the EU than outside it ahead of the 23 June vote and it’s been good to see individuals from the sector lending their voice to this message.

In other travels last week, BIA hosted another successful dinner – this time at the Red Lion in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire – giving our members the opportunity to network, enjoy some good food, and discuss matters of local and national importance to the sector.  It was good to see some familiar, and some new faces, and a very enjoyable evening was had by all.  We look forward to the next one.

Finally, it was great to see the launch of infocus from Innovate UK last week, the first women only Innovate UK competition and part of a new ‘infocus’ initiative to encourage diversity in innovation. There’s £200,000 on offer and a package of tailored support to award to businesswomen who have exciting ideas and the potential to become leaders in innovation and deliver significant economic growth – more information can be found on the website here.