Last week, leading senior level management from bioscience companies across the UK gathered at Down Hall for this year’s BIA UK CEO and Investor Forum. As UK voters headed to the polls, the Forum provided an opportunity for open discussion around the EU Referendum, as well as the current state of fundraising in the sector and the talent agenda. Some of the highlights are detailed below, along with pictures from the day.
Having recently launched our Money, momentum and maturity report into UK biotech financings and deals in 2015/16, the opening panel on Wednesday evening discussed recent funding and investment in the sector. The panel, including Sam Fazeli of Bloomberg Intelligence, Dan Mahony from Polar Capital Partners, Imperial Innovations’ Nigel Pitchford, Saku Saha of Woodford Investment Management and Edwin Elmhirst from EP Vantage, were enthusiastic about the highs seen in venture capital financing in 2015. It was encouraging to hear reassuring comments from each investor when questioned on the potential impact of the imminent EU Referendum, US Presidential election and the turbulent Chinese markets – with our resilient sector expected to continue to succeed despite the challenges. Indeed, this was echoed following the announcement of the EU Referendum result on Friday, with Neil Woodford stating, “In the longer term, it is my view that the trajectory of the UK economy, and more importantly the world economy, will not be influenced significantly by today’s outcome. Consequently, the portfolio strategy will not change.” You can read his initial thoughts on the vote here and watch a video describing his longer term view here.
The conference kicked off in earnest on Thursday morning, with an update on the BIA Vision from BIA Chair, Jane Osbourn. Attendees were also treated to a great keynote presentation from Dr Richard Mason, Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, London, who spoke on the critical role of collaboration to the long-term success of biomedical innovation.
As UK voters headed to the polls, BIA CEO Steve Bates and PwC’s Jo Pisani and Jonathan Gillham led the discussion on the potential implications of the EU Referendum for the biotech industry. PwC have produced a booklet that you can download here, and do take a look at the BIA’s response that was issued on the Friday following the result.
Chair of the BIA Finance and Tax Advisory Committee, Colin Hailey, gave an overview of current funding incentives in the UK, including R&D tax credits, the Patent Box and EIS/SEIS reliefs. There were also some interesting discussions around partnering following presentations from Syncona’s Chris Hollowood and Taylor Wessing’s Tim Worden.
There were some fantastic presentations as part of the business development soapbox session, including Biotecnol, BliNK Biomedical, Orphidia, Eagle Genomics and Videregen.
Led by RSA’s Chris Molloy, our afternoon panel session on talent generated much discussion around how to support the next generation of biotech leaders – represented on the panel by Iwan Roberts of Puridify, Jemma Gatliff, CEO of Keregen Therapeutics and Fiona Neilsen of DNAdigest and Repositive. As mentors themselves, Barbara Domayne-Hayman and Chris Thomas gave their views on the important role that mentors can play in the development of talent. Look out for some work from the BIA on this issue later in 2016.
The recent interest in crowdfunding as an alternative source of funding for biotech companies was tackled in our penultimate panel session, with Fran O’Brien, Head Associate at SyndicateRoom. It was also interesting to hear the perspective of Mark Beards, Corporate Development Director at Cell Therapy, which successfully utilised the crowdfunding platform to raise funds in December 2014. Definitely one to watch in 2016 and beyond.
Finally, the Forum drew to a close with a discussion around the UK public markets, chaired by Liz Klein. Panellists James Clark from the London Stock Exchange, Sherry Coutu from the Scale-up Institute and Clare Terlouw from Numis Securities debated the benefits of the London markets and the key ingredients to a successful IPO. James also drew attention to the successful follow on environment currently witnessed on the London Stock Exchange – an essential component for the scaling up of biotech companies into the mid-tier we want to cultivate here in the UK.
Click on the video below to watch a slideshow of pictures from the event, or view on our Flickr page here.