Archives for category: Events


Last week over 150 members gathered at Allen and Overy in London for this year’s BIA Committee Summit, to hear updates from the eight BIA Advisory Committees. Find out more in the blog below.

The BIA’s eight Advisory Committees are crucial mechanisms for highlighting the most relevant issues facing bioscience companies, covering areas from cell and gene therapy to intellectual property. Their work informs and guides BIA policy and priorities, ensuring that member needs are met.

Launched at the Summit, the Science and Innovation Advisory Committee (SIAC) is the newest of the BIA committees and was set up to identify and build on evolving science trends in the biotech industry that can give the UK competitive advantage.

The aims of SIAC are to:

  • Influence the policy of government and funders of UK science and technology through proactive engagement with key stakeholders to the benefit of UK life science companies
  • Encourage active networking between BIA member companies to facilitate communication, collaboration and sharing of best practice for mutual benefit
  • Improve translational science through more effective interaction between the academic research community, Tech Transfer Offices and BIA members
  • Address the identified science skills shortage in UK life sciences

Dr Mark Carver is the new SIAC Chair and told us the strong UK science base is going to be the catalyst for sector success. SIAC brings together specialists from across the BIA’s membership to help build on this competitive advantage by addressing issues that are key to sector growth, contact us if you want to know more.

Also announced at the Summit, the Synthetic Biology Advisory Committee has been renamed the Engineering Biology Advisory Committee. Speaking at the Summit, Chair of the committee, Dr Tim Fell highlighted how cheap DNA synthesis and new gene editing tools are transforming the biotechnology sector. At the same time, we are seeing increasing numbers of engineers, physicists, and computational scientists joining the field. Engineering biology is a more accessible term that better reflects the breadth of the field and we hope it will encourage potential new members into the committee for 2017.

Finally, the Communications Advisory Committee will be changing and becoming a more informally structured meeting, relaunching as the Communications Forum on Thursday 2 March.

The changes to our Advisory Committees reflect the changing needs of BIA members, who are key to ensuring that these vibrant expert communities can continue to flourish and drive forward sector wide success in 2017.

As part of the Summit, delegates also heard updates from our Cell and Gene Therapy, Finance and Tax, Intellectual Property, Manufacturing and Regulatory Affairs Advisory Committees. Click here to view the slides from the session, with details of all committee activity in 2016 and their areas of focus for 2017.

For more information on the BIA Advisory Committees, please visit the website.

Watch a slideshow of pictures from the day below.


Earlier this month, representatives from across the synthetic biology community gathered at the Royal Society to take part in an open discussion – Synthetic Biology: does industry get it? The conference, organised through the Royal Society’s Science, Industry and Translation Programme, was co-organised by BIA CEO Steve Bates, along with Professor Ben Davis FRS (University of Oxford) and Professor Paul Freemont (Imperial). Speakers discussed the potential of synthetic biology to address some of the key challenges of our time, as well as the barriers to fulfilling its full potential. Read on for our highlights from the day.

What is synthetic biology?

Synthetic biology is an interdisciplinary area that involves the application of engineering principles to biology. The field, in its broadest sense, is opening up a suite of possibilities for the design and redesign of biology to create new products and processes – advances in research and new toolkits could see the application of synthetic biology across a variety of industry sectors from pharmaceuticals to energy.

Improvements in the speed and cost of DNA synthesis in recent years have driven innovation at an exponential rate. Many international bodies predict that synthetic biology will have a significant impact on the economy, growth and jobs over the coming years, with the UK well positioned to play a leading role in the development of this burgeoning field.

A wealth of potential

Morning presentations from Professor Christina Smolke, Stanford University and Dr Jason Kelly, Ginkgo BioWorks both highlighted the strength of biotechnology as a manufacturing platform, offering nanoscale precision at continent scale production.

50% of our medicines are derived from nature, with 50% of those originating from plants – one obvious example being opioids. However, as explained by Professor Smolke, there are limitations to relying on nature directly to produce these and other products – a point also picked up by Jason Kelly when describing the manufacture of rose oil. Manufacturing with biotechnology has the potential to transform supply chains, providing a more cost effective and efficient route.

In an inspiring presentation, Dr Kelly shared his vision for the future: consumer biotech product launches (think Apple’s latest iPhone but for a synthetic spider silk shoe). From clothing made of bioengineered spider silk, to recreating the fragrance of extinct flowers, the falling cost of genetic engineering is opening new markets to biotechnology. And investors are interested – in the first half of 2016, over $900 million was raised by synthetic biology companies.

Synthetic biology also has the potential to catalyse the re-invention of industries and technologies. Presentations from Dr Andrew Phillips, Microsoft and Dr Jeremy Shears, Shell looked at applications from programming biology, to its role in the energy transition as we steer towards lower carbon and renewable energy sources.


Credit: Royal Society

Does industry get it?

Across a multitude of sectors, there were some clear examples of uptake by industry on show at the conference. Multinational companies are becoming increasingly involved in the synthetic biology field, some funding research within their own companies but collaboration with SMEs and academia playing a more significant role.

Embracing this kind of disruptive technology can lead to great success for companies, but at a risk. Pfizer’s Dr Edmund Graziani emphasised the importance of driving internal innovation within a company – if not us, then someone else will capitalise on this opportunity. He sees collaborations as a useful way for larger companies to approach new technology and keep up with the rapid pace of innovation.

This was echoed by a number of the larger companies present on the day, including Dr Phillips, Microsoft who highlighted their work with BIA member company Synthace, and GE Healthcare who recently signed a collaboration with Synpromics, another BIA member. Dr Jeremy Shears also spoke to Shell’s network of research partnerships with universities, looking to academics for unique and experimental technologies.


However, challenges to the wider uptake of synthetic biology by industry remain. These include the clear need to demonstrate profitability in order to displace existing processes; concerns over public perception and difficulties around the language and definitions used in the field. Critically, these barriers risk meaning that the full potential of synbio is not well understood.

So what else can we do to ensure the success of this flourishing industry? Persistence is key, it appears, when it comes to industry. And as synbio technologies begin to drip into the mainstream, building public trust through transparency, openness and dialogue from the beginning is paramount to its success – with companies such as the UK’s Oxitec already leading the charge in this area.

Find out more about the synthetic biology start-up scene in Europe here.

Last week over 700 life science professionals descended upon The Brewery in London for the 21st Annual BIA Gala Dinner. With speeches from Lord Prior of Brampton, Alzheimer’s Research UK Ambassador Shaheen Larrieux and the presentation of this year’s BIA Lifetime Achievement award to Kate Bingham.

Watch a slideshow of photographs from the evening below, or visit our Flickr page to view the album in full.


Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

Find out what happened at the 2016 UK Bioscience Forum and why our members find it such a useful event.

Don’t forget to get this year’s date in your diary – 12 October 2017

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.


On 12 December, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Life Sciences held its annual Winter Reception to celebrate the vitality of the UK life sciences sector and showcase some of the innovative technologies produced by British companies.

BIA members GE Healthcare, uMotif and Applikon exhibited alongside Roche, Woundcheck, Boston Scientific and Medtronic.

GE Healthcare gave MPs and other guests the opportunity to tour their advanced therapy manufacturing facilities using a virtual-reality headset. Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, Iain Wright MP, was particularly impressed (pictured).


Applikon brought along their MiniBio bioreactor, which can be used for a range of processes, including screening studies, media optimisation and cell culture. Applikon exhibited on behalf of the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership, which recently published its Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Plan.


uMotif demonstrated their software that use data to provide new insights for health services and all phases of clinical research, including real-world evidence.


The APPG for Life Sciences, is a cross-party group of MPs and peers founded in 2015 by Kit Malthouse MP to raise awareness of the valuable contribution the life sciences sector provides to the health and wealth of the nation. The BIA supports the APPG in collaboration with ABPI, BIVDA and ABHI.


Guests heard from the APPG’s vice-chair, Jo Churchill MP, the former Life Sciences Minister and now Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board, George Freeman MP, and Michael Cumper from the heart patients’ organisation, the Somerville Foundation.


George Freeman MP told the reception “Our world-leading life science sector – which generates over £60 billion and over 220,000 jobs for the UK economy each year, and provides products which the NHS and UK patients rely on every day – is of critical importance to the country.”

View all photos from the event on our Flickr page.

Only one week to go until this year’s BIA Gala Dinner, where we’ll be raising funds for our Charity of the Year, Alzheimer’s Research UK!

The below infographic outlines one of our biggest global healthcare challenges, dementia, and how UK bioscience is working to tackle it.


Watch our video to find out more about dementia here.

For more information on our ‘Celebrating UK Biocience’ project, visit the website.

Last week the BIA headed to a wet and windy San Francisco for Biotech Showcase. We were joined by members and partner organisations to wave the flag for British biotech on an international stage. Here we take a look at the highlights.

Addressing the threats and opportunities of Brexit

With Trump’s inauguration in less-than a fortnight, 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.

Biotech Showcase panel

BIA’s CEO Steve Bates chaired the session, which featured five Brits, including himself, and one American. In his opening remarks, UK Government Minister Lord Prior said he believes Brexit is a “catalytic event” for British innovation and stressed that the government is working hand-in-hand with industry to make the most of it. He highlighted the recently-announced 20% increase in public funding for research and innovation and the government’s underwriting of EU funding up to 2020. Later in the session he said the government would be announcing further support for research collaboration this year.

MedCity Chairman and CEO of Immunocore Eliot Forster continued the up-beat message, noting that his company has seen an increase in job applications from Europeans despite Brexit. He stressed the need for continued access to global talent, including from the EU, which in his opinion the government understands.

Alison Dennis, a Partner at law firm Fieldfisher, didn’t shy away from highlighting the difficulty of extracting the UK from the EU regulatory regime and said that a transition period would be needed to allow companies time to plan and adjust. However, there is great expertise in the UK’s regulatory agencies, such as NICE and the MHRA, she said. Outside the EU, this could allow the UK to respond much quicker to new technologies than our EU counterparts, meaning a much more innovation-friendly system could be developed.

The London Stock Exchange’s Chris Mayo surprised many in the room by pointing out that UK healthcare IPOs outperformed those in the US in both 2015 and 2016, suggesting that the financing environment is strong. He added that a number of specialist fundraising vehicles have also launched recently making the UK a unique market. This paired with the weak pound could attract foreign investors to the UK scene he said.

The only panellist without a “Downton Abbey accent”, as Steve put it, was AstraZeneca’s Steve Twait. However, he praised the talent of the UK science base and said that his company was continuing with its investment in a new Cambridge HQ and research campus because of the great opportunities for collaboration with academia.

As Steve put it at the beginning of the session, the fundamental strengths of UK life sciences remain unchanged following Brexit. And those fundamentals look to get stronger as the Government focusses on supporting the sector and investing in innovation as part of its life sciences strategy.

BIA members in the spotlight

img_0255There was a strong showing from British biotech presenting this year, including 11 BIA members: Abcodia; Abzena; Altimmune; Biosignatures; Cell Medica; hVIVO; Immodulon Therapeutics; Mereo BioPharma; Oxford BioMedica; ReNeuron; and Scancell.

It was great to see the strength of UK science on display. ReNeuron, for example, showcased the UK’s leading position in regenerative medicine with their cell-based therapies for motor disability resulting from stroke and for the blindness-causing disease, retinitis pigmentosa. And Immodulon demonstrated the global interest in UK science in their presentation, which included a project investigating the use of Mycobacterium vaccae to treat post-traumatic stress disorder funded by the US military through DARPA.

Toasting UK bioscience

The highlight of the BIA’s trip to San Francisco was the UK reception, hosted with our partners, to celebrate British bioscience. We were delighted to welcome so many of our members as well as our global colleagues.

The popularity of the event not only showed what a positive and open sector we have in the UK but also the interest in it from the US and international community. Thank you to everyone who attended the evening and made it such an enjoyable and successful event.

The BIA would like to thank our partners for supporting all the above activity in San Francisco: the Department for International Trade, Fieldfisher, London Stock Exchange, London Partners, and MedCity.

Get ready for JP Morgan week by watching yesterday’s BIA webinar below, including who is attending, what is going on, and how to make the most out of your time in San Francisco during one of the busiest biotech weeks in the calendar.

Do you have a video you would like the sector to see? Contact us.

As we head towards Christmas, we take a look at BIA’s year in numbers…



We had a great time in Newcastle for last week’s bioProcessUK conference. Watch the slideshow below for pictures from the event, or visit Flickr to browse the album at your own pace.