This week: Manchester, Circassia, Astex, NICE and NHS response, Switzerland, Science and Technology Committee’s report into managing intellectual property and technology transfer.

Writing Newscast can sometimes feel like a commentary on what’s happening in Westminster so this week I want to start with a different perspective. In 2017 BIA companies are week in, week out celebrating major milestones and it’s right and important for us to both celebrate with them and tell their stories of success to others to show the strengths of our ecosystem. Two different examples this week that I hope we can all share with colleagues and networks – and which should be the talk of BioEurope in Barcelona.

First great news for the UK’s Astex Pharmaceuticals, as Novartis’s Kisqali gets FDA breakthrough approval. This new breast cancer drug was discovered in a collaboration with Astex – so is great news for patients from British science and innovation, with an interesting corporate story from well-funded UK biotech listed on NASDAQ via M&A, now owned by Japanese Otsuka. Astex today not only makes a milestone but employs over 200 people in Cambridge and is expanding. Its science is at the heart of a potentially very significant new therapy coming from UK innovation in partnership with the world.

Secondly, Circassia’s announcement on Friday that it has secured the US commercial rights to two COPD products from AZ is a significant moment as a key UK company makes an important commercial play through an interestingly structured deal.  Circassia now has a world-class respiratory business and can leverage its existing portfolio whilst AZ can focus on its core priorities. The products are a clear strategic fit with Circassia’s focus on respiratory medicines and will leverage and enhance their commercial infrastructure. So two key moments – two deals moving forward between global pharma and great UK biotechs – all BIA members.

It was great to see so many of you at our Manchester event last week where we updated on the progress on Industrial Strategy and heard [presentations from BioNow and the Medicines Discovery Catapult. For more information on the BIA’s regional events go to the events section of the BIA website.

You will have seen the ongoing media coverage of the NICE and NHS England decision to change the arrangements for evaluating and funding drugs and other healthcare technologies assessed through NICE’s technology appraisal and highly specialised technologies programme.  We will continue conversations with government on the industrial strategy for the life sciences sector and this decision will feed into these discussions – we will update you on the progress.

It’s vital that businesses of all sizes feed in their concerns around industrial strategy, and this week BIA members will be helping us shape our response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy consultation. Spaces are still available for the workshop on 23 March. This is your opportunity to influence our policy development and campaigning in 2017. It will be kindly hosted by Simmons and Simmons, EC2Y 9SS, from 9am to 1pm. Email Martin at to reserve your place.

With the UK industry facing major changes around Brexit, the BIA in collaboration with Tekiu Ltd, is guiding a delegation of UK decision makers from across the UK biotech ecosystem to explore the sector in Switzerland. The delegation is made up of representatives from industry, government and the regulatory authorities, who will all be meeting with their Swiss counterparts to see how Switzerland operates outside the EU and what lessons can be learned for the UK. In view of Brexit, it is timely to examine the policies that allow both big and small businesses in Switzerland’s Life Sciences sector to flourish. Alongside BIA member companies, the delegation will include representatives from the Office for Life Sciences and the MHRA. The trip will also offer BIA members the chance to explore new business opportunities in Switzerland. You can read more about this on the blog. We also have strong BIA representation at Bio Europe Spring this week and we will round up on all our highlights next week.