Details about ministerial responsibilities continue to trickle out of Whitehall. It now looks highly likely that George Freeman MP will not be replaced by a new dedicated Life Sciences Minister. Instead, we believe responsibility for life sciences will be split between Health and Business Ministers. In the Department of Health, Lord Prior has responsibility for the life sciences industry and Nicola Blackwood has responsibility for life sciences innovation, along with data and technology. It has not yet been confirmed whether the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson MP, will also have responsibility for our sector in the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) or if it will go to one of his colleagues. We are continuing to engage with Government at all levels to determine responsibilities and ensure life sciences has a strong voice. Keep a look out for our guide to the new Government for BIA members, which we will publish later this week, alongside our latest Quarterly Report.
Many of you will have seen comments made by Jeremy Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, last week and over the weekend on how medical research is funded and on the Patent Box. We put out a press statement responding to Corbyn’s suggestion that medical research shouldn’t be “farmed out to big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer” and offered to meet with the Labour leadership to help them understand our sector better. In January 2016, the BIA inputted into a Labour Party consultation on business incentives and were told that there would be further engagement on the findings so it is disappointing to see announcements about cancelling the Patent Box coming out in the current leadership contest. That said however it is also welcome to see various Labour politicians comment on the value of the Patent Box and the fact that this policy has its roots in Labour party policy development. We will continue to make contact with all policy makers throughout the Labour Party to communicate the value of our sector to the UK economy and how patients benefit from the innovative medical products being developed by BIA members.
The sector continues to pull together following the result of the EU Referendum. Some of you will have joined the webinar held on Friday to inform members about the formation of the UK EU Life Sciences Transition Programme – if you missed the webinar then you can listen again here. This key programme, taking place rapidly across the summer, is vital in bringing together key organisations from across the UK life sciences ecosystem to ensure that the priorities for the sector are prioritised in the new government’s negotiation over the UK’s future relationship with Europe.
In addition to this webinar, we would like to invite member companies to a ‘Town Hall’ style meeting at 3pm on Wednesday 27 July at our offices. This meeting will provide the opportunity for BIA (and ABPI) members to hear about the processes and progress of the work, and to ask any questions that you may have. Please confirm your attendance by completing the online form.
It’s vital that we have a forum such as this for detailed and dispassionate thinking around the areas that are key to our industry including regulation of medicine, access to the single market and talent, and intellectual property. The BIA remains committed to making the UK the third global cluster for life sciences and we will work closely with government and relevant agencies to see how this ambition can be delivered in the new political context we now find ourselves in as a country.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Life Sciences, which the BIA supports along with ABPI, BIVDA and ABHI, held its AGM on Tuesday 19. We are grateful to its Chair, Kit Malthouse MP, who continues to be a strong champion for our sector, and would like to welcome Jo Churchill MP and Maggie Throup MP as new Vice-Chairs. All other Officers were re-elected and a work plan for the year was agreed, including events on the implications and opportunities of leaving the EU for the life sciences, immigration and skills supply, and the Accelerated Access Review.
This week the Home Office published the Statistics on the Use of Animals in Scientific Procedures for 2015 and you can read more about these on the BIA blog. Animal research plays an invaluable and legally-mandated part in the development of medicines. It is extremely important – and a legal obligation – for researchers to ensure that promising new medicines are tested for safety and efficacy (i.e. having the intended effects) as far as possible before they are tested in humans. The BIA is a signatory of the Concordat on Openness on the Use of Animals in Research, an agreement supported by a range of organisations – including universities, companies, research funders and umbrella organisations – to commit to being open about the use of animals in research in the UK.
It was excellent news to see that Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients and their families welcome a decision by NICE making BIA member PTC Therapeutics’ Translarna available on the NHS. DMD is a muscle-wasting disease that usually affects boys in early childhood and is often fatal by age 30 and Translarna is currently the only treatment approved for marketing that addresses the underlying cause of the condition.
Year-on-year the BIA works in partnership with charities involved in research into some of today’s life changing illnesses. Over the past few years we have partnered with British Heart Foundation, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Bowel Cancer, Fight for Sight, CF Trust, Prostrate Cancer plus many more worthwhile causes. Applications are now invited from the charity sector to become the BIA Charity of the Year for 2017. If you would like to be considered and work in partnership with the BIA in 2017 please contact us for more details. Deadline for submissions is Friday 12 August – send any applications through to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, as many of you know, Pamela Learmonth will be leaving the BIA this week to go on maternity leave. I’m sure you will join me in wishing her well and we look forward to her return to the BIA in 2017. As I mentioned a few weeks back we are delighted to have welcomed Laura Collister to the team as Interim Head of Public Affairs and Communications and Laura will be a point of contact for members on this area of the BIA’s work in Pamela’s absence.