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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.

 

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

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Today we announced that we will be partnering with Alzheimer’s Research UK as our charity of the year in 2017. The BIA has worked with the charity this year on its Celebrating UK Bioscience campaign that looked at how the Dementia Discovery Fund, launched in 2015 by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Department of Health and global pharmaceutical companies, supported BIA member Gen2 Neuroscience in its work to tackle dementia. Find out more below.

Dementia is a global health challenge, expected to affect more than 132 million people worldwide by 2050, and the UK is leading the way in tackling the challenge.dementia-time

The Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) was created by the UK Department of Health, Alzheimer’s Research UK, alongside major global pharmaceutical companies Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Pfizer and Takeda who have invested $100 million into a fund to support the discovery and development of novel dementia treatments.

The fund is managed by SV Life Sciences, who are working to identify and support the development of novel therapeutic approaches. A world-class Scientific Advisory Board, with representatives from the DDF’s strategic investors and world-leading international academics has been set up to share expertise, expand the DDF’s collaborative networks and advise the investment team.

Current treatments for dementia only help to ease the symptoms of the condition for a limited time but do not address the underlying cause. The aim of the fund is to boost innovation in research and development to deliver new drug approaches for dementia by 2025 to diagnose and intervene early to modify the course of disease while improving symptoms, which will lay the foundations for effective therapies.

The DDF is working collaboratively with universities, academic institutes and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry internationally to identify novel dementia research projects and nurture these through the pre-clinical phase, enabling further development in clinical trials.

Cambridge based Gen2 is the first UK investment by DDF: Gen2 is a seed company engaged in the discovery and development of novel treatments for dementia targeting abnormal forms of the essential extra cellular protein tau.

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Watch the BIA video which features Dr Matt Norton, Director of Policy and Strategy, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Kate Bingham, Managing Partner SV Life Sciences (Dementia Discovery Fund), Dr Rick Livesey, CEO Gen2 Neuroscience and Joy Watson, dementia patient and Alzheimer’s Research UK supporter.

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With his first Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond MP, continued the past administration’s theme of addressing Britain’s productivity puzzle and sought to show the UK remains committed to being a science superpower post-Brexit and is “open for business”. Here we look at some of the major announcements for the life sciences sector.

As expected, the Government is no longer seeking a budget surplus in this Parliament, but will look to return public finances to balance “as early as possible”. This has allowed for new spending that the Government hopes will boost productivity and the economy. However, departmental spending plans set out in 2015 Spending Review will remain in place (except for the Ministry of Justice).

National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF)

There will be a new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), which will provide £23 billion of spending between 2017-18 and 2021-22, for items such as housing and transport infrastructure and will “prioritise science and innovation spending”. The document says this represents new investment and we therefore expect this to be in addition to the real-terms increase in the Science Budget announced last year (we will keep an eye on this); new science and innovation spending over this Parliament through NPIF will be:

  • £425m in 2017/18
  • £820m in 2018/19
  • £1.5bn in 2019/20
  • £2bn in 2020/21

This spending will be distributed through two channels:

  • Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund – a new cross-disciplinary fund to support collaborations between business and the UK’s science base, which will set identifiable challenges for UK researchers to tackle. The fund will be managed by Innovate UK and the research councils. The Government says this is modelled on the USA’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programme and will cover a broad range of technologies, to be decided by an evidence-based process
  • Innovation, applied science and research – additional funding will be allocated to increase research capacity and business innovation “to further support the UK’s world-leading research base and to unlock its full potential”. Once established, UKRI will award funding on the basis of national excellence and will include a “substantial increase in grant funding through Innovate UK”

The British Business Bank will also invest an additional £400 million in venture capital funds to unlock up to £1 billion of new investment in innovative firms planning to scale up.

The Autumn Statement also confirmed the £100m for the Biomedical Catalyst and a further £100m for tech transfer, both announced by the Chancellor in October (although the latter was originally announced as £120m, it’s not clear whether this is a mistake).

Science and Innovation Audits

The government has selected eight areas for the second wave of Science and Innovation Audits, most notably for us is one for the “bioeconomy of the North of England”. The others are: the East of England; Innovation South; Glasgow Economic Leadership; Leeds City Region; Liverpool City Region +; Offshore Energy Consortium; and Oxfordshire Transformative Technologies. The government is also announcing a further opportunity to apply to participate in a third wave of audits.

Tax and finance

To ensure the UK tax system is “strongly pro-innovation”, the government will review the tax environment for R&D to look at ways to build on the introduction of the ‘above the line’ R&D tax credit to make the UK an even more competitive place to do R&D. The BIA will be feeding into this review and is already in conversation with relevant Government officials.

The Statement confirms that the Government will stick to the Business Tax Roadmap announced at Budget 2016. This means corporation tax will continue to fall to 17% by 2020.

HM Treasury will lead a review to identify barriers to access to long-term finance for growing firms, supported by an advisory panel led by Sir Damon Buffini. The BIA will feed into this review, building on roundtables we have already held with the Government on this issue.

Talent and skills

The government will provide £13 million to support firms’ plans to improve their management skills by implementing Sir Charlie Mayfield’s review of business productivity. This will be consulted on in December.

There was no mention of the Apprenticeship Levy in the Chancellor’s Statement but it is still forecast as a revenue stream for the Government so it looks like there is no policy change there.

The BIA’s view of the Autumn Statement

There is a lot to welcome from a life sciences perspective in today’s Autumn Statement. It’s fantastic to see this government showing an understanding of what is important to life science businesses. As trailed by the Prime Minister on Monday, there’s continued commitment to research and development and the promise of a ‘substantial increase in grant funding through Innovate UK’, this will allay concern over previous plans to convert some grants to loans. And the focus on improving the R&D tax credit regime and access to patient capital is crucial and very welcome.

One thing missing from today’s document that was trailed by the Prime Minister is the review of the Small Business Research Initiative but this will likely appear in the coming weeks along with the industrial strategy green paper we’ve been expecting. There was also no new funding for the NHS.

The reviews offer another useful opportunity to strengthen the UK’s life sciences offering. The BIA is already well-engaged with ministers and key Government officials on these issues and we’ve already held a number of useful roundtables with our members and the Government to address issues like access to capital. We will continue to use these relationships to work with Government, as well as feeding into the reviews announced today, to improve the life sciences business environment and achieve our vision to build the third global bioscience cluster.

All the Autumn Statement documents can be found on the Treasury website.

The UK BioIndustry Association ‘Celebrating UK Bioscience’ campaign highlights the impact that the UK bioscience industry makes on delivering ground-breaking treatments to patients. Here we take a look at Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a fatal muscle-wasting condition. BIA member Summit Therapeutics, a biotechnology company based in Oxfordshire is developing a potential treatment approach, known as utrophin modulation, to slow or stop disease progression.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal muscle-wasting condition, caused by the lack of a protein called dystrophin.

Dystrophin acts as a molecular shock-absorber for muscle fibres. Without it, muscle fibres break down and are replaced by fibrous and/or fatty tissue causing the muscle to weaken gradually. Not only does the condition impact on muscles used for movement, but also on the heart and respiratory muscles. There is currently no cure for the disease, which affects around 2,500 people in the UK. The average life expectancy is around 30 years old.

 

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DMD is a genetic condition that can be caused by a range of mutations in the dystrophin gene, located on the X chromosome. Females have two copies of the X chromosome, while males have an X and a Y. This means the condition primarily affects males, but women can be carriers of the disease with one affected X chromosome. Usually female carriers do not show signs of the disease because they have a second X chromosome that can compensate by producing the dystrophin protein that the body needs.

Up to one third of new cases of DMD arise in patients with no familial history due to spontaneous mutations in their dystrophin gene.

Summit Therapeutics, a biotechnology company based in Oxfordshire is developing a potential treatment approach, known as utrophin modulation, to slow or stop disease progression.

Utrophin is a naturally occurring protein that is functionally and structurally similar to dystrophin. Utrophin is produced during the early stages of muscle fibre development but is switched off in maturing muscle fibres, at which point dystrophin is produced to perform the same functional role.

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Summit Therapeutics aim to modulate, or change, how utrophin is produced in boys and men with DMD. The approach aims to use small molecule drugs to maintain the production of utrophin to compensate for the absence of dystrophin in order to maintain and protect healthy muscle function.

Watch our video and hear more about the research from Summit Therapeutics, Muscular Dystrophy UK and Charmaine Twine, whose two sons Josh and Ethan have DMD.

You can also download our accompanying infographic here.

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To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld – with Hillary Clinton’s defeat, her policy known unknowns can be discounted. With Donald Trump heading to the White House, we now face unknown unknowns.

Trump has defied expectations to be elected the 45th President of the United States of America. The result has caught markets off-guard, with indexes looking like a rollercoaster across the globe. However, with the threat of Clinton’s drug price regulation off the cards, there appears to be a silver lining for biotech stocks. Here we look at the potential impact of the US election on biotech in the UK and globally.

Biotech stocks rally on Trump win

Ahead of the election, a report by US analyst firm Leerink Partners said that $50 billion had been wiped from biotech stocks as markets predicted a Clinton win and a Democrat-controlled Congress. It concluded that biotech stocks could bounce back by 20% if Trump and the Republicans were successful.

As the UK market opened this morning, pharmaceutical shares rose in the FTSE 100 (which overall went down), with Shire, Hikma, GlaxoSmithkline and AstraZeneca all up between 2% and nearly 5%.

In the US, the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology exchange-traded fund, which tracks biotech stocks like Gilead Sciences, Celgene and Biogen, rose 9% when the market opened. Pharma stocks also rallied – Pfizer up 10%, Merck 5% and Abbvie 7%.

Investors are clearly relieved. The Republicans have held onto both the Senate and the House of Representatives. As the Party has fiercely fought-off drug price controls in the past, this makes it very unlikely drug prices will see strong regulation. However, commentators are still divided on what the election result means for the industry. Trump’s health plans have centered on ripping up Obamacare “on day one”, whereas Clinton was set to expand the program. Adam Feuerstein, a columnist at TheStreet, says the worry could shift to reduced prescription drug volumes and lower sales if Obamacare is repealed.

Trump has also promised to remove the ban on importing medicines and to speed up the approval of generics, which will make the market more difficult for new medicines. This has been reported as a boon for generic manufacturers and could result in a more European-style healthcare market.

Wider Trump policy and its effect on the life sciences

While he has offered few details on policies for life sciences research, Trump said last year that he has heard “terrible” things about the US National Institutes of Health. In the run-up to the election and now after, US scientists in academia and industry have expressed concern that a Trump Presidency could result in less Government funding for biomedical research – potentially as a result of lowered taxes – and questions have been raised about his approach to evidence. He has repeatedly pushed the myth that vaccines cause autism. “I feel sick to my stomach,” a research director of a small biotech focused on autism therapies told BuzzFeed News about the prospect of a Trump administration.

Ben Carson, a heart-surgeon who dropped out of the Republican primary race and joined Trump’s campaign, has taken a more sensible approach to vaccines, and after being thanked in Trump’s victory speech could be a close adviser on health policy to the new President.

In his speech, Trump took a conciliatory tone. He promised to be a President for everyone. He said he would invest in infrastructure, double US economic growth and to put America first but “deal fairly with everyone, all nations and all people”. However, everyone agrees that his election signals a significant change to US foreign and domestic policy.

Trump supported Brexit and is said not to be a fan of the EU. He even had Nigel Farage campaigning alongside him. Some commentators have said this could mean a stronger “special relationship”. Trump is also against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and EU, which would exclude the UK if it went ahead after Brexit.

Trumps notorious stance on immigration — including a pledge to bar Muslims from entering the United States — will raise concerns that talented foreign scientists will be put off from working or studying at US institutions. And it is unlikely that Trump will appoint Supreme Court judges more positively minded towards intellectual property and research in life sciences, this may prove to be a competitive advantage for the UK sector.

Proposition 61 defeated

American drug companies have also avoided price regulation in California, where Proposition 61 was defeated in a vote that happened alongside the election. The legislation aimed to cap how much the state can spend on the prescription drugs it buys through programs like Medicaid or insurance plans for state employees. If it passed, it would have been a huge change to how drug pricing operates in the US that could trigger the introduction of similar legislation across the country.

Keep calm and biotech on

As we have demonstrated since the EU Referendum result earlier this year, the strong fundamentals of our sector in the UK remain unchanged. The American election was never going to change that. Just this week Syncona revealed their part in a new £1 billion listed fund that will be a real boost for UK life sciences in the coming years, and today saw the official opening of the Francis Crick Institute in London. These are all positive developments for the UK ecosystem that will maintain and strengthen our position as the third global life sciences cluster.

In lieu of a video, this week we’re showcasing an infographic from our ‘Celebrating UK Bioscience’ campaign, depicting the drug development process.

UK bioscience plays a central role in developing the treatments needed for future generations here and around the globe, from investing in and carrying out research and development, to getting drugs from the lab and into patients. Find out more about our campaign on the BIA website and watch the accompanying videos on our YouTube channel.

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Get involved with the campaign and tweet about your UK biotech successes using #BIAcelebrate

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Today the BIA launched the next phase of its Celebrating UK Bioscience campaign. The aim of this campaign is to showcase the great work taking place in the sector – focusing on the potential human benefits of treatments that are currently in research and development – and to bring a greater understanding of the UK biotechnology sector to new audiences.

Biotechnology is technology based on biology, the science of life. Scientists in our sector work with living organisms to drive the development and manufacture of drug treatments, advanced therapies and diagnostic tests to support patients in the UK and beyond. The BIA is the trade association for innovative healthcare companies rooted in the UK’s bioscience base. The sector continues to evolve, investing in research and development activities, and translating research from the UK’s world leading science base into medicines to treat patients.

There is great depth and breadth in UK biotechnology: from a strong and emerging regenerative medicine and cell therapy sector, to specialist biomanufacturing companies developing therapies for cancer treatment, to personalised treatments and new antimicrobials. Advances in technologies such as synthetic biology are impacting upon the development of new types of therapeutics and new production methods. UK bioscience is not only changing lives, but saving them. It is vital that the sector continues to get the support it needs to keep this essential research and development going, now and in the future.

This campaign takes a look behind the scenes in the labs of some of our members to see what they are researching and developing and what the possible patient benefits these drugs and treatments could have in the future. The report is divided into five treatment areas: cancer, antimicrobial resistance, type one diabetes, dementia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Most people will be familiar with cancer and dementia, but this project wanted to look at less understood areas such as type one diabetes and antimicrobial resistance, as well as a rare disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, to demonstrate the breadth of scientific research and development taking place in our sector.

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A number of charities that took part in this project are directly funding research in BIA member companies. Collaborations between industry and medical research charities are increasingly recognised as a mutually beneficial relationship. This brings the patient perspective to companies and enables patients to access clinical trials or to stay informed about R&D, and even allows vital funds to be channelled into clinical research.

Alongside the report, there is a series of infographics and videos, which add further insight into each condition and what BIA members are doing to tackle them. You will hear first-hand from patients and their families who have shared their personal stories and what they hope UK biotech will be able to achieve. Go to www.bioindustry.org/newsandresources/celebrate to view and download all the resources.

 

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The UK bioscience sector enters the autumn season in rude heath with developments across the sector from significant inward investments, new startups, fundraisings and government investment.

Speaking last week at the opening of new BIA member Alnylam Pharmaceutical’s new building, in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Maidenhead, BIA CEO Steve Bates, said: “This opening is confirmation of the fundamental strengths of the UK life science ecosystem. It is fantastic news for the UK that Boston based Alnylam have chosen the UK for their new European HQ. This is just one of a string of recent announcements from across the sector that shows the UK biotech ecosystem is in rude health, and that the initial shock of the EU referendum has past.”

Alnylam was founded in 14 years ago, with the focus of advancing RNAi therapeutics as a new class of innovative medicines. Alnylam’s platform has the potential to be transformatory for patients with genetic diseases, metabolic heart diseases and infectious diseases of the liver.

Steve added: “It’s fantastic to be able to welcome Akshay Vaishnaw, Executive VP of R&D, and Chief Medical Officer of Alnylam today. Akshay trained in Wales and London so knows well the depth of talent and scientific excellence in the UK.”

Alnylam’s opening is just one of a series of recent highlights for the UK biotech sector, which include:

  • The formation of new companies. GammaDelta a new private companyseeded by Venture capitalists Abingworth was created this month to work on the potential of gamma delta (γδ) cells, to create improved immunotherapy of cancer and other serious diseases. The company also received support from Cancer Research Technology, King’s College London and the Francis Crick Institute.
  • The raising of additional capital by established biotech businesses. In September, Manchester based and AIM listed C4X Discovery raised an additional £5million. New investors Calculus Capital Limited (a leading EIS and VCT investor) and Polar Capital LLP participated for the first time.
  • The raising of additional capital by Life science investors. In AugustCambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) raised £75 million in private financing round. CIC provides long term capital to support the sustained growth of investee companies in the rapidly-growing technology and healthcare sectors. The new funds raised will be used to provide additional investment to CIC’s current portfolio, to invest in new opportunities created at the University of Cambridge and within the Cambridge Cluster and to expand the CIC team to allow the Company to capitalise on its strong inflow of new investment opportunities.
  • Further investment in clinical research infrastructure by the UK government. This month we have seen the UK’s largest ever investment into ground-breaking health research, as the UK government announced the research projects supported by a record £816 million investment. Twenty Biomedical Research Centres will host the development of new, ground-breaking treatments, diagnostics, prevention and care for patients in a wide range of diseases like cancer and dementia. Leading NHS clinicians and top universities will benefit from new world class facilities and support services built by the five-year funding package. Mental health research will see funding increase to nearly £70 million, dementia to over £45 million, deafness and hearing problems will receive over £15 million and antimicrobial resistance research rises to around £45 million.

Despite the positive news from the sector in the UK, Steve Bates stressed that the sector cannot rest on its laurels.  He said: “Also this month we have read of GE plans to invest £150million into a bio manufacturing plant in Cork, Ireland. This shows both the opportunities available in this sector and the globally competitive market for investment. It’s vital that life sciences is central to the UK government’s new industrial strategy and that policies in it ensure the UK is truly globally competitive.”

This month we’re taking a look at talent on the BIA blog. 

Rainbow Seed Fund and SynbiCITE recently announced a new £200,000 competition, Bio-start, designed to bolster UK companies aiming to solve significant global problems through synthetic biology. The not-for-profit competition offers the winner a combination of £100k cash plus laboratory space, a ten-week accelerator programme with mentorship, consumables and professional services valued at ~£100k. Find out more below.

Midven’s Rainbow Seed Fund, along with SynbiCITE, a pioneering Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC), have announced the launch of Bio-start. This annual competition, worth £200,000 to the successful UK innovator, will help early-stage synthetic biology innovators to move ground-breaking ideas closer to the market.

The science of synthetic biology

Synthetic biology lies at the cross point of science, engineering and computing. It can be described as the design and engineering of biologically based components, novel devices and systems as well as the redesign of existing, natural biological systems, and its gives scientists the opportunity to design bespoke organisms to carry out new roles. Its potential has been recognised beyond the lab bench – in 2013, the UK government described synthetic biology as one of the eight great technologies that can support UK science strengths and business capabilities.

Applications for synthetic biology include the development of sustainable energy and new drugs, could help with waste remediation and event begin to alleviate food and water shortages.

The Bio-start boost

The not-for-profit contest Bio-start competition has been created by SynbiCITE and Rainbow Seed Fund to support UK companies that are working to solve significant global problems through synthetic biology. Its aim is to support innovative early-stage companies and people with great ideas in healthcare, clean tech, industrial biotech or any sector that makes use of synthetic biology.

Oliver Sexton, Investment Director at Rainbow Seed Fund, said: “We’re confident about the UK’s strength in synthetic biology and believe there is potential to build world-class companies in the UK. Bio-start is an important element in our strategy of helping develop this promising sector. It will also be an opportunity for corporate sponsors to engage with promising young companies in the synthetic biology industry.”

The prize is worth £200,000 and is comprised of:

  • £100,000 in funding
  • Laboratory space
  • A ten-week accelerator programme with mentorship
  • Consumables and professional services valued at ~£100,000

Registrations must be completed by midnight on 14 October 2016 using the application form on the Bio-start website and completed entries must be submitted by midnight on 31 December 2016. Application areas can be in healthcare, clean tech, industrial biotech or any sector that can make use of synthetic biology.

Co-founder Stephen Chambers, CEO of SynbiCITE, said: “This is a first in the UK for synthetic biology and our aim is to help as many companies and entrepreneurs as we can. Once applications have been assessed up to 25 companies will go through our ten-week boot-camp and mentoring programme. Up to 10 of these companies will go through to the final awards event where they’ll have a chance to pitch their ideas to an expert panel in front of an audience of investors and industry leaders.”

The BIA’s People Advisory Committee hosted a session at the 2015 UK Bioscience Forum where the audience made it clear that there needs to be a stronger industry focus on mentoring the next generation of management talent and that the BIA should be playing a leading role. 

This is why we have bought together a directory of schemes to showcase the breadth of options open to companies and individuals in the sector today and we will be launching this in the Autumn. This publication kicks off the BIA’s wider work on the issue of talent and our People Advisory Committee will be playing a central role in driving this forward.