As well as the article 50 bill starting its passage through the House of Lords, the government has today responded to the Commons Science and Technology Committee’s report on the implications for science and research of leaving the EU. In its statement, the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to science and innovation and “making the UK the global go-to nation for scientists, innovators and investors in technology”. In particular, we welcome the acknowledgment that maintaining communication with stakeholders throughout the Brexit negotiations will be key, and we look forward to continuing the close working relationship we have with the Government and helping them to maintain confidence within the global life sciences community.
I had the opportunity to talk Brexit with Lord O’Shaughnessy, who recently assumed life science responsibilities in the Department of Health, in a meeting last week. We also discussed, amongst other things, the Industrial Strategy – a conversation I was able to continue this morning at a Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Stakeholder Reception with many BIA members in the impressive but chilly Durbar Court of the Foreign Office (see picture). For all of us attending (and thanks to those Members able to join at short notice) it was great to hear John Bell endorsing our goal of growing life science businesses to scale from the UK as a “grand challenge” and to discuss in detail ideas around financing and investment in life science, policies for the science base and regions and future of regulation. An unannounced appearance at the end of the event by NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens was a positive sign of NHS England engagement with the process. We continue to advocate on this crucial area and the government hope to publish a new strategy by the end of next month.
Last week the US National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine published a report on human genome editing, “Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance”. The report outlines several criteria that should be met before allowing germline editing clinical trials to go forward. We welcomed the publication of this cautious but reasoned report and the continued international focus on enabling this pioneering area of biotechnology. With its renowned science base, and a world-leading regulator in the HFEA, the UK is well placed to lead in this innovative genetic revolution.
We are also blessed with expert institutions like the Royal Society, the Wellcome Trust, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and numerous medical research charities, able to facilitate and contribute to the vital ongoing global public debate needed about the science, ethics and governance of human genome editing. The BIA hopes that a consensus position is reached between UK scientists, society and policy-makers that will enable businesses that may emerge from this frontier science to want to establish themselves in the UK as a supportive and properly regulated environment.
On Thursday we were at the BioHub Birmingham for their BioBrum event. It’s always useful to attend regional hub meetings, such as BioBrum, which provide valuable opportunities to engage with companies in the area. BIA COO Nick Gardiner spoke to delegates about our talent directory and growing desire to understand the education and vocational training environment and talent development available across the industry. Talent remains a key area of focus for the BIA and something our People Advisory Committee will continue to address, including at Friday’s Committee Summit.
Later that evening, back in London, the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) launched their Strategic Skills Action Plan. This follows their Skills Strategy launched in 2016. The Action Plan was set out to deliver the key skills activities needed to achieve the sectors’ skills ambition – including a requirement for up to 260,000 skilled people out to 2025 – many in new technology-based scientific occupations. This projection includes up to 142,000 professional level graduate-entry jobs and up to 73,000 technical level apprenticeship-entry roles.
It is vital that there is a sustainable future pipeline of knowledge and skills to ensure that the sector can continue to grow and succeed. The Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce (ATMT) worked in close partnership with SIP to align the ATMT action plan launched in November 2016 and the SIP Strategic Action Plan to support this shared goal.
If you’re interested in the skills agenda, read more about the work of our Manufacturing Advisory Committee and their bioproduction leadership initiative that launched in January. In the run up to our annual Committee Summit on Friday, we’ve also published a round-up of the focus of our Intellectual Property Advisory Committee, which has been following the increasing divergence between US patent law and that of other major jurisdictions around the world.
Looking forward to seeing you at the Summit on Friday