Last week the BIA headed to a wet and windy San Francisco for Biotech Showcase and JP Morgan, joined by members and partner organisations flying the flag of UK life science excellence on the global stage. The week, for a largely US community, was overshadowed by President Elect Trump’s first public utterances on our sector at his press conference on Wednesday. They are worth reading in full:
“I think a lot of industries are going to be coming back (to the USA). We have to get our drug industry coming back. Our drug industry has been disastrous. They’re leaving left and right. They supply our drugs, but they don’t make them here. To a large extent. And the other thing we have to do is create a new bidding procedures for the drug industry because they’re getting away with murder.
Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly. And were going to start bidding and were going to save billions of dollars over a period of time.”
So, as I said in my blog on his victory in November, whilst the market has priced in Hilary Clinton’s defeat (“known unknown’s”) it rested on “unknown unknown’s” with Trump. It now seems as if his intent is to encourage as much of the value in the pharma industry as possible to base itself in the USA via protectionist policies, that may include tax reform, and at the same time, has implied that he wants the US public healthcare system to negotiate drug prices. Additionally Robert F Kennedy Jr. has been asked to lead a new commission on ‘vaccine safety and scientific integrity’ which has been seen by many in the media as a process that will marry vaccine sceptics from both sides of the US political spectrum. Trump tweeted about vaccines in 2014: “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!” It remains to be seen whether and how all this can be delivered in the months and years ahead, but it’s an important staging post of intent we need to be aware of.
What is clear is that the new administration is going to be a significant break from the last and will have a material impact on market sentiment, as well as public discourse on science and health throughout 2017. So you’ll see why I’m looking forward to spending some time this week analysing the Presidential Inauguration for sector impact, as well as Theresa May’s much heralded speech on Brexit tomorrow.
Thank you to everyone who came to our events out in San Francisco. It was great to see such a strong showing from the UK from this year. Keep an eye out for our blog tomorrow rounding up the highlights. At the conference itself, we teamed up with the Department for International Trade to hold a packed Brexit panel at the conference, highlighting that the fundamental strengths of UK life sciences remain, and hosted an enjoyable UK biotech networking reception on Monday evening. Given Trump, Brexit wasn’t top of the agenda at Biotech Showcase, but interest was still high as delegates crowded into the BIA’s panel workshop to hear how the UK bioscience sector is addressing the threats and opportunities of the momentous decision.
Lord Prior, who joined us as part of the panel at Biotech Showcase, has now had his responsibilities confirmed following the mini reshuffle I mentioned last week – they include life sciences, industrial strategy and the single market. You can view them now online here.
In other news, I’m delighted to let you know that the latest round of the new Biomedical Catalyst funding is up online, ready to launch next Monday, 23 January. £10 million is available for 1 year Feasibility studies awards (to explore and evaluate the commercial potential of innovative scientific ideas) and 2 year Primer awards (previously Early/Late Stage awards, to conduct a technical evaluation of your idea through to proof of concept in a model system). There will be a briefing event webinar for the competition on 6 February – register to attend here.
It’s extremely satisfying to see the competition launching after years of lobbying efforts by the BIA and our members. You can find out more about the road to refunding the BMC in our infographic here.
On Friday we responded to a NICE and NHS England consultation on changes to the arrangements for evaluating and funding medicines. The proposed changes could stop the flow of new medicines reaching patients with very rare and complex diseases. This follows a recent roundtable held by BIA members to discuss the issues raised by the consultation that was attended by MPs, Peers and patient groups with an interest in medicines for rare diseases.
Rather than unlocking innovation in the NHS and delivering equity and access to all patients the proposed changes in the consultation will delay access to medicines and undermine confidence in the system for both patients and industry. It is vital that the industry collaborates with NICE and NHS England to ensure that ground breaking treatments can be made available to patients quickly and efficiently, wherever they live in the UK. You can read our press release on the submission here or download the consultation response in full here.
BIA also submitted a response to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry on closing the STEM skills gap last Friday. Our submission specifically addresses the current skills deficit identified for manufacturing of Advanced Therapies, following in-depth work undertaken as part of the Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce. Due to its strong research base, the UK is well-placed to secure a world-leading position in the Advanced Therapies manufacturing market, which is expected to grow to be worth between $14-21 billion globally per year by 2025. In order to ensure a sustainable supply of knowledge and skills necessary to fuel the growth of Advanced Therapies manufacturing in the UK, the creation and implementation of an end-to end talent plan for the sector is required. This must support the development of a range of skills from Manufacturing Technicians through to Post-doctoral and Professional levels. You can read our response in full here for more details.
And a final note to draw your attention to a new blog from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) providing expert insight into the latest regulatory thinking and all aspects of medicines regulation. You can follow the MedRegs blog here.