bayer-reception-bio-europeLast week the BIA team joined our United Life Sciences colleagues at BIO-Europe in Cologne as part of the UK delegation of businesses in attendance to show that the UK is very much open for business post Brexit.

59 BIA member companies attended this year’s conference, which hosted over 3,600 attendees from 1,900 companies in over 60 countries. Delegates took part in more than 20,000 one-to-one meetings and put on over 150 company presentations. Alongside all of this there was a packed agenda of plenary sessions and workshops – here are some of our highlights from the conference.

An interesting session on Big pharma’s approach to digital health tackled issues such as privacy and using data to support patients without becoming big brother, as well as the changing role of the patient. The panel discussed how in the past, patients had been passive receivers of healthcare but with internet access and a wealth of data freely available they are now approaching doctors with their own diagnoses and putting greater demands on healthcare systems. Panellists also debated the pros and cons of wearable technology – one of the positives being that it can enable easier monitoring of a patient’s health between the times that they are accessing healthcare. However, they also discussed the challenges of ensuring that this data is integrated seamlessly, works as it should and ensuring that what is being collected is genuinely valuable to physicians.


In How EU companies can succeed outside of the EU, the panel gave advice to delegates on how to prepare their organisations for the US market – a challenge for both UK and EU companies. The emphasis was on the importance of having excellent quality science and four top tips to come out of the session were:

  1. Ensure that your IP is perfect and that you have an effective company structure – get another company to look at your corporate documents and IP.
  2. Get the right people across all business functions (science, operations, business) that have worked outside their comfort zone and own geography
  3. Get to know investors before you need them
  4. Be proactive and look for funding outside of traditional lanes

Innovative funding for SMEs in Europe ran through the many schemes open to companies and advice on how to best access these schemes. As part of this session there was also a great case study from Norwegian company, Biovotec, who are using eggshell membrane to treat wounds – it works like a collagen dressing would but is far less costly.


The panel for An Autobahn for rare drug development showed the importance of collaboration between industry, academia and charity/patient organisations. It was interesting to hear about how each type of organisation can help open up new access to new treatments for rare diseases. Whether this be charity organisations de-risking assets that industry deem too risky, or industry helping academia to better understand its assets so that they can get more shots on goal – further collaboration is key.


Diversity is key for all businesses, and a particularly hot topic for life sciences. The Diversity Working Group Workshop was full of robust discussion, outlining the importance of not just gender diversity, but diversity on all levels and in all shapes. Why? Besides the fact that there’s a significant amount of data to back up the success of businesses who do have a diverse employee and leadership base, it also prevents groupthink – the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group, resulting typically in unchallenged, poor-quality decision-making. It’s important to think on both a company level, as well as an individual level, and success will come to those who are self-aware enough to be able to work across both. From the solutions-focused group of leaders, the challenge was launched: what are you doing to change things?

If you are interested in BIO-Europe Spring then we will be in touch with more information in the coming weeks on how to register and reduced rates for UK delegates through our United Life Sciences partner, BioPartner.