Archives for the month of: June, 2017

Astex Therapeutics explains how its expertise in solving crystal structure helped Novartis develop new cancer drug Kisqali.

On Wednesday 14 June, we held our latest Women in Biotech event at Instinctif Partners. We were joined by Professor Jackie Hunter CEO of Benevolent Bio and Maxine Mackintosh Founding Director of One HealthTech.

The BIA’s Women in Biotech community was set up in 2007 and aims to provide an effective network for women in the life science sector. Our Women in Biotech networking events are attended by a diverse range of delegates from across the sector and feature a variety of engaging speakers from VCs, entrepreneurs and CEOs, to coaches and leading figures from within the industry and associated businesses.

Following welcomes from Sue Charles at Instinctif Partners and BIA CEO Steve Bates, Jackie introduced Benevolent Bio, the London-based bioscience arm of BenevolentAI. Founded in 2013, Benevolent Bio is a technology and drug development company working to streamline the drug development process.

Maxine Mackintosh then gave an overview of her company One HealthTech, a network that supports and promotes women and other underrepresented groups in health innovation. Maxine highlighted that the NHS workforce’s make up is 23% men and 77% women, however, only 16% of the UK technology sector workforce are female and women make up only 25% of board level Directors in the NHS with an informatics role. Maxine also mentioned the difficulty that women have in getting into medical school, compared with men.

Chair of the BIA Board, Dr Jane Osbourn said: “The Women in Biotech events are an excellent way of promoting diversity within the life sciences and have helped to build a supportive community where women in the sector can share and learn from each other’s experiences.

“The BIA champions equality in the sector and as chair of the Board I hope to see that diversity in our sector continues to grow and would encourage all women across our sector to be play an active role in the Women in biotech community and help pave the way for more women to enter UK biotech.”

Following their presentations, Jackie and Maxine took part in a Q&A session with some interesting questions from the predominantly-female audience, during which the presenters shared their insights into why the number of women in biotech has not reached its potential.

Presentation slides from the event will be available on our website shortly. Our next Women in Biotech event will be taking place in London on Wednesday 20 September and will include a presentation from Professor Melissa Hanna-Brown, Technology and Innovation Lead at Pfizer. Further details will be published on the BIA website shortly.


It was great to see the UK in full force at the BIO 2017 Convention in San Diego last week. And I was delighted to be able to introduce former PM David Cameron to several BIA members.

It was great to see over 150 of you at our reception Celebrating the Future of UK Biotech, co-hosted with MedCity and LifeArc – previously known as MRCT – who officially launched their new name at the event.

Cameron gave his keynote on Tuesday to a packed room in which he talked Brexit and the strength of the UK life sciences ecosystem. Pre-empting Theresa May’s Thursday night offer to the European Council, he said the right of EU nationals to stay in the UK would be guaranteed and accessing EU talent post-Brexit wouldn’t be an issue. The focus for the biotech industry, he said, should be on the “exact nature of the trading relationship between UK and EU.” You can read more in our press release here.

We explored these issues in greater detail in the afternoon and reassured our global colleagues as I chaired a Brexit panel discussion with Nicole Mather from the Office for Life Sciences, Ronald Jager from Europabio, and BIA members David Tapolczay from LifeArc and Kym Denny from hVIVO.

I also spoke at the UK Global Innovation Hub session. I took the opportunity to champion the UK’s attractiveness as a global life sciences cluster, particularly highlighting our tax regime. Combining low rates of tax, innovation incentives, significant tax benefits and one of the most comprehensive global treaty networks, the UK is extremely competitive. You can read more in our press release.

Last week also saw the Queen’s Speech and beginning of Brexit negotiations. The Queen stressed that the government is committed to securing “the best possible deal” as the UK leaves the EU. This will be achieved through a series of Brexit bills, the first of which is the Repeal Bill to revoke the European Communities Act and transpose EU laws into UK legislation. Chancellor Philip Hammond used his Mansion House speech to say he is confident that the UK can do a deal that puts jobs and prosperity first, adding that pharmaceuticals and biotech would benefit. You can read more in our blog.

Next week is our annual Parliament Day, where the BIA and our members will be meeting with MPs and officials from across government to ensure the life sciences stay high on the political agenda during these fast-moving times. The day concludes with our Summer Networking Reception, which you are all invited to. Sign up here. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Lab Animal Tour ( is a ‘street view’ into four animal research facilities in the UK. This digital tour allows users to move around four different facilities, providing the viewer with 360o vision of animal rooms and surgical suites.

You can look around each facility using a 360 photographic tour. Watch the videos to see technicians talking about how they look after their animals and to find out from scientists why animals are being used.

Yesterday, her Majesty delivered the Queen’s Speech for the 64th time at the state opening of the new parliament. As expected, Brexit was the centrepiece of the speech.

The speech sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the upcoming parliamentary session, which unusually has been doubled to two years to allow the government and MPs more time to focus on Brexit legislation.

The speech was expected to be atypically pared back due to the hung parliament and the lack of a formal deal between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Unlike the general election result, the speech went as expected.

The Queen said the government is committed to securing “the best possible deal” as the UK leaves the EU. This will be done through a series of Brexit bills. The first one, the Repeal Bill (previously referred to as the Great Repeal Deal), will revoke the European Communities Act and transpose EU laws into UK law. The Repeal Bill will be followed by seven other Brexit bills, including:

  • Customs Bill: To provide new domestic legislation to replace EU customs legislation
  • Trade Bill: To help implement an independent trade policy
  • Immigration Bill: To end the EU’s rules on free movement of EU nationals in the UK and make the migration of EU nationals subject to relevant UK law

The government’s plans for these bills will become clear once the first drafts are tabled in parliament. In the background briefing to the Speech, Theresa May said that “this will be a government that consults and listens” – hinting at future consultations with industry and the public.

In addition to the Brexit bills, the Speech outlined some non-Brexit bills of interest to the life sciences:

  • Data Protection Bill: To ensure the UK’s data protection framework is fit for the digital age. The bill will seek to regulate data processing and sharing vital to the life sciences, the development of medicines, and innovate research. For this reason, it is expected that the bill in part implement the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is due to enter into force in May 2018
  • Draft Patient Safety Bill: To improve patient safety in the NHS and healthcare services, for example by establishing an independent Health Service Safety Investigation Body
  • Industrial Strategy will continue to be a central part of the government’s plan to boost the economy. We expect the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, which has been led by Sir John Bell, to be published later this year.

Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords will now debate the different policy areas of the Speech over six days. MPs can table amendments to the Speech and each debate concludes with votes on the amendments. The final vote will take place in the Commons next Thursday, June 29.

The Conservatives will need the support of the DUP to push their legislative agenda through the Commons. Although no deal between the two parties has been announced, it is unlikely that the DUP would vote down the Speech to pave the way for Labour to form a minority or coalition government.

While our sector was not specifically mentioned in the Speech, Chancellor Philip Hammond said “emerging areas like biotech” will benefit the economy in his recent Mansion House Speech, highlighting the government’s support of the life sciences throughout the Brexit process. The BIA will continue to engage with the government and MPs from across the spectrum to ensure the life sciences stay high on the political agenda.


On Friday, I visited Buckingham Palace for my investiture having been recognised with an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. I am honoured to have received the title in recognition of services to innovation and in keeping with the theme of innovation, I wore a piece of synthetic biology to my investiture. As detailed in my blog, in a first at a formal occasion with British royalty, I sported a knit tie made from a brand-new fabric called spider silk. This new material is made by the company Bold Threads using biotechnology and comes from studying silk proteins found in nature.

This week, I’m writing from California, where an impressive delegation from the UK has arrived at the BIO International Convention in San Diego where David Cameron will be giving a keynote speech on Tuesday. This year’s theme is ‘Breakthrough’ and UK companies will be at the fore sharing their innovation with global colleagues. High on the agenda are the impact of AI on biomedicine, digital health and the future of clinical trials. I’m personally looking forward to hearing David Cameron champion our UK ecosystem to the rest of the world.

Back on home soil, the fallout of the General Election continues to make headlines and the government has now named the new junior health ministers who will replace David Mowat and Nicola Blackwood who lost their seats. Steve Brine MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford and Jackie Doyle-Price whose seat is Thurrock will be taking up the roles. Both have previously served as assistant government whip. We will be looking to engage with these figures at our forthcoming Parliament Day and beyond.

As the Brexit negotiations kick off, the Brexit Healthcare Alliance has also been established of which the BIA is a founding member. The Alliance was set up to ensure that key issues including healthcare research, access to technologies and treatment of patients are given necessary prominence in Brexit negotiations. You can find out more about the implications of both the General Election and Brexit on the life sciences in our latest webinar that can be viewed here.

On Friday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued a statement following the June 2017 meeting of the EMA Management Board which focused on two important topics: Brexit preparations and the development of the EU clinical trial portal and database. EMA is making preparations on the assumption that the UK will become a third country as of 30 March 2019, recognising this is without prejudice to the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations. It is worth noting the UK is fully participating in the activities of EMA and all formal meetings and retains its speaking and voting rights. On the EU Clinical Trial Regulation the Agency announced that entry into application is now postponed to 2019, instead of October 2018, because of delays with the development of the IT systems. The BIA is engaged with the EMA on clinical trials and will keep members updated.

Another key BIA event last week was Women in Biotech which was hosted by Instinctif Partners. Speakers Jackie Hunter, CEO of Benevolent Bio and Maxine Mackintosh Founding Director of One HealthTech, gave an overview of what they’re working on and shared their insights into why the number of women in biotech has not reached its potential. Presentation slides from the event will be available on our website shortly.

Our next key events for your diary are coming up in July. Join us on Thursday 6th for our Summer Networking Reception which is taking place on the roof terrace of the IET Savoy Place. Following our Parliament Day, the reception promises an evening of excellent networking, great food and drink and fantastic views. Secure your place here. The following week, we’re teaming up with MHRA once again for our conference around innovation in life science. You can register here for the event which is taking place at the Royal Society of Medicine on Friday 14 July. Engaging sessions will include ‘Implications of the EU Referendum outcome: Practicalities, challenges and opportunities’. I hope to see you there.




Debrett’s guide to Etiquette tells us that it is traditional for British men to wear Morning Dress at weddings, formal memorial services, some official functions and formal daytime events in the presence of The Queen. So that is what I’ll be wearing when I have the honour of collecting my OBE for innovation at Buckingham Palace this week.

The style guide is clear – “A black or grey matt morning coat, single-breasted with peaked lapels, curved front edges sloping back into tails. Trousers are grey or grey and black-striped. A white or light-coloured shirt with a white turned-down collar, double-cuffs and cufflinks. Ties are preferred to cravats. A smart woven silk tie is acceptable.”

However, being honoured for innovation, I am determined to add a modern twist to the traditional look and will be wearing a knit tie made from a brand-new fabric called spider silk – the only one of its kind at present in Europe, and the first time ever such a tie has been worn at a formal occasion with British royalty.

This new material is made by the company Bold Threads using biotechnology. It comes from studying silk proteins found in nature, determining the genetics behind their incredible properties, and then designing genetically engineering yeast to produce silk proteins akin to these natural spider silks. These silk proteins are spun into fibres, which are subsequently knitted or woven into fabrics and garments.

Bolt Threads first prototype product is a spider silk knit tie. Spider silk is a fibre known for its high tensile strength, elasticity, durability and softness. It’s likely that running shoes will be the next prototype product available on the market.

In the coming century, we will see lots of applications of engineered biology replacing carbon intensive processes as we move to a post-oil era of greater sustainability. The UK has a pioneering lead in some great science and the opportunity to build global companies that can exploit this emerging technology.

Steve Chambers, CEO SynbiCITE, commented: “This advance of synthetic biology into everyday life is just one indication of the exciting progress currently taking place in this field. Widespread and consistent innovation in the sector is sure to pave the way towards the application of engineering biology throughout our society.”

I’m looking forward to discussing this unusual fashion statement with one of the style icons Prince William, his dad or the Queen. Fabrics, fragrances, foods and medicines can all be made and improved using these processes – I’m hoping I get the chance to discuss this on the day. It is humbling and a privilege to be recognised with an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list and I’m proud to be wearing a piece of biotech in action on the day of my investiture.

This blog was first published on the SynbiCITE website.

The ABS Initiative has produced a short animated video clip to explain ABS and the Nagoya Protocol within in 5 minutes. It is meant to be screened as a curtain raiser at meetings, conferences and workshops – for example national ABS kick off’s – to a larger audiences. Of course the video can also be forwarded to colleagues that are interested in the ABS or should get to know about it.

Across Europe, the investment industry is preparing for the introduction of a revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Mifid II) in early 2018. There is little doubt that these new rules will bring far-reaching changes that will have a profound effect on operations across the financial services sector and will inevitably impact how companies in the healthcare sector communicate with investors.

Perhaps the most widely publicised change under the new regime will be the requirement for fund management companies to explain clearly to their investors how much of their money is spent on research, significantly impacting the way financial research will be produced, distributed and consumed. Traditionally, research conducted by sell-side analysts has been sent to fund managers for free in return for the business asset managers provided to banks and brokerages through placed trades. The cost of the research was then “bundled” into the price of trading along with other related services, such as direct access to the analyst or corporate client through the bank. In addition to the unbundling of written research, ESMA, the European body charged with enforcing the rules has made it clear that it sees services such as the provision of corporate access, often regarded as one of the major value adds for the buy-side, as a source of potential conflict of interest and therefore a service that cannot be paid for from research payment accounts.

The priorities for fund managers and investment bankers are clear. For buy-side investors the challenge will be getting the most bang for their buck; obtaining the best quality research efficiently and at a reasonable cost whilst maximising the use and effectiveness of in-house research. From the sell-side perspective the challenge is finding the best way to monetise their research offering whilst ensuring that it is visible to existing and prospective clients.

The question facing both sides is not only how to value unbundled research, but who will ultimately pay for it? Will the cost of paying for external research be absorbed by the funds themselves, or will managers pass the cost on to their investors through higher fees? Some funds have already stated that they will foot the bill, but despite the looming deadline, research carried out by RSRCHXchange last Autumn found that more than half of 220 surveyed asset managers still did not know how they will pay for research when the rules come into force.

So, what are the available options?

One possibility is that institutions will pick a limited panel of investment banks from which to obtain their research. In such a scenario, it is possible that there would be consolidation amongst research teams and the banks which are highly-rated across a range of sectors will be positioned for success. However, consolidation, or investors taking research from fewer of the already established houses could mean less diversity in opinion being present in the market.

Another possibility is that investment banks may choose to specialise in either research or trade execution. While some buy-siders believe this would improve the quality of execution service they receive, others warn that this could drive up the price of research, putting smaller investment managers at a disadvantage, squeezed out by the inevitably rising costs of research.

Companies looking to get noticed could also face a paucity of analysts covering a growing number of stocks. Smaller entities, perhaps covered by a single in-house broker may struggle to attract the attention of independent research analysts.

If independent research becomes scarcer, not only for investors but also small and mid-sized companies looking to publicise their stock, some predict that sponsored research by an established provider or as a service provided by an investment bank, could become an increasingly attractive option. Naturally, however, some investors fear that paid-for coverage can never be truly objective.

Clearly many aspects of the post-Mifid II landscape will remain uncertain up to and possibly beyond the January 2018 start date. At present, there is potential for a range of models and only time will tell which of these will ultimately prove to be successful. For listed companies, navigating the new environment may require changes in tactics but we remain convinced that the case for a clear, compelling equity story and active engagement with the research community will remain as strong as ever.

In a recent submission to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the BIA highlighted that MiFID II risks creating disincentives for investors in the life sciences by forcing them to pay extra for investment advice from expert sector analysts. The BIA is concerned this will have a negative impact on the already low amount of scale-up capital available for bioscience companies in the UK.


So, the UK public have delivered their verdict and Theresa May is set to continue as Prime Minister and is forming a Government with “confidence and supply” from of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

You can read more about how the new parliament might affect the life sciences sector, including what the DUP has to say in its manifesto in our blog ‘What does the outcome of the 2017 General Election mean for the UK life sciences sector?’.

I will also touch on what the emerging government agenda means for our sector and Brexit at our next monthly webinar this Thursday at 16:00, do register here for the latest or to ask a question.

The priority for our sector is getting the highly complex and technical issues associated with Brexit right and the BIA will continue to make our members’ expertise available to ministers and officials in the coming weeks and months. Early agreement on key issues like the regulation of medicines, the regime to enable non-UK nationals to work and contribute to the UK life science ecosystem, trade, finance support, market and intellectual property rules, would be the best way to ensure speedy and continuing global inward investment into the UK and EU. It would also be in the best interest of patients who require access to innovative healthcare.

Even if what the election means for Brexit is not yet clear, what both main parties were clear on is the campaign on the desire to turn the UK into the most innovative country in the world as highlighted in our recent blog. Our sector is key to taking the UK’s outstanding science base and translating it into economic jobs and growth. Measures to support this goal should attract broad support in the new Parliament.

We will be pushing this at our annual Parliament Day (taking place on 6 July) where CEOs can meet with new and returning MPs, Peers, Ministers and civil servants. The event will be followed by our Summer Reception at the IET Savoy Place which will be the perfect opportunity to network with fellow industry colleagues over a drink. You can register your place here.

Aside from the election, last week saw the ASCO General Meeting 2017 which was held in Chicago. One of the biggest stories to come out of the meeting was around the high cost of cancer drugs, with US doctors raising concerns. On a more positive note, British researchers (The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust) used the event to announce the results of their trial of a new drug for ovarian cancer, a disease for which treatment options are currently extremely limited. You can read more ASCO 2017 news here.

Next week, we will be in in San Diego for BIO 2017, if you missed our webinar on what to expect it is available to view on YouTube here – I look forward to catching up with many of you on the West Coast next week.