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The UK BioIndustry Association ‘Celebrating UK Bioscience’ campaign highlights the impact that the UK bioscience industry makes on delivering ground-breaking treatments to patients. The state-of-the-art Cancer Research UK – MedImmune Alliance Laboratory (CMAL) is an innovative collaboration between charity Cancer Research UK and BIA member MedImmune, established to accelerate the translation of research into potential new drugs. Find out more below.

Cancer starts when cells change abnormally. Gene changes cause a cell or cells to begin to grow and multiply too much, which can lead to the formation of a tumour. One in two people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime. There are over 200 different types of cancer and many different approaches to treatment.


In September 2015, a new laboratory was opened in Cambridge to focus on the discovery and development of novel biologic cancer treatments and diagnostics. The state-of-the-art Cancer Research UK- MedImmune Alliance Laboratory (CMAL) is an innovative collaboration between charity Cancer Research UK and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca.

In this important partnership, scientists from both organisations work together in the laboratory and collaborate closely to share knowledge and expertise to accelerate the discovery and development of novel biologics to treat and diagnose cancer. The CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory is focussing on rare and hard to treat cancers, including cervical, pancreatic and leukaemia.

cmal-graphicThe alliance brings together Cancer Research UK’s cancer biology expertise with MedImmune’s world-class human antibody drug discovery expertise. Cancer Research UK provided set up and operational funding for the laboratory as well as contributing a portfolio of novel drug targets together with a team of scientists. MedImmune oversees the laboratory activities and provides access to its human antibody phage display libraries and established antibody engineering technologies.

Phage display allows researchers to quickly scan through millions upon millions of randomly generated antibodies (a special type of protein normally produced by our immune cells) to find ones that recognise important molecules involved in cancer or other diseases. First developed in the 1980s by Cambridge scientists, phage display is an immensely powerful research tool that has already led to the discovery of a ground breaking treatment for auto-immune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease called adalimumab.

The CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory will accelerate the translation of research into potential new drugs. Opened in 2015, the lab is on track to have its first candidate ready for clinical trials in 2019.

Watch our video and hear more about the Alliance Lab and from Tony Selman, patient and Cancer Research UK ambassador.

You can also download our accompanying infographic here.

VisionContinuing our February focus on the BIA’s eight Advisory Committees, ahead of our second Committee Summit later this month, today we take a look at how the People and Communications Advisory Committees are helping to drive the talent agenda.

At the inaugural BIA Committee Summit in April 2015, the BIA launched its Vision for the UK Life Sciences Sector in 2025 outlining an ambitious vision to build the third global biotech cluster behind global leaders, the US heavyweights of Massachusetts and California.

The provision and cultivation of industry talent is key to achieving this vision and was identified as one of 10 themes to drive the change needed over the next decade to install the UK as the third global biotech cluster. If we are to reach this goal, the sector will need at least 130 extra clinical stage management teams and will need yet more talent in other health innovation and support sectors. That talent needs to be more ambitious, multi-skilled and have the right leadership behaviours to drive growth and global success.

With expertise from HR professionals across the biotech sector, tackling the industry’s talent agenda and the challenges laid out in the vision document is an important focus for the BIA’s People Advisory Committee (PAC). Key Committee members sought feedback on some of these challenges as part of a session at last year’s UK Bioscience Forum in October, with discussions around mentoring and nurturing the next generation of biotech talent in the UK. This focus will continue into 2016 with direct input into a document that is part of the BIA’s Celebrate activity that will signpost mentoring and personnel development opportunities that exist for those working in the sector. The project will also involve the Communications Advisory Committee (CAC) who will provide support and advice.

This celebration of current UK bioscience talent is a continuation of recent BIA activity celebrating the UK’s vibrant sector, including the publication of a report back in June 2015. Listed as another of the 10 themes for change, celebrating sector success was identified as an important driver in achieving our vision for 2025.

The UK bioscience sector continually produces great success stories around scientific discovery and financial successes alongside amazing patient stories that demonstrate the human impact of the sector but they remain under-sung. To mobilise for change, we need to celebrate our success more, champion the sector internationally and create the positive momentum to make our vision reality. Acting as a critical friend on BIA communications activities, CAC members will continue to input to the Celebrate project in 2016, alongside other BIA campaigns and publications. With an extensive network of communications expertise, Committee members can help to amplify the profile of BIA campaigns and provide a diverse source of contacts from across the industry for comment.

Keen to learn more? Then do come along to the Committee Summit on 25 February and learn more about the work of PAC and CAC alongside the six other areas of focus from our Advisory Groups – Cell Therapy and Regenerative Medicine, Finance and Tax, Intellectual Property, Manufacturing, Regulatory Affairs and Synthetic Biology. Registration closes this Friday.

Sunday Politics4A short note from me this week as policy matters wind down for the festive period. Following November’s Spending Review, I featured on the BBC Sunday Politics show yesterday on the impact of the CSR on the sector. The changing environment at Innovate UK and what the “loans not grants” agenda means in practice is our top policy concern at present and one where we will be communicating on more broadly in the New Year. The Biomedical Catalyst is successful in leveraging private sector investment, and any new financial products developed by Innovate UK must work for business. The devil will be in the detail so for example, any loan product must not impinge on a company’s ability to grow and seek continued investment. If you’re interested in more, you can catch up on the show here – skip to 56 minutes in for the feature.

Last week the BIA inputted to the Treasury’s consultation on revisions to the Patent Box. As per the previous briefing note we published, this exercise really is about transposing new international rules into UK legislation. The Patent Box tax relief will still remain under the new scheme but in the future companies will need to demonstrate the link between the investment made in R&D in the UK and the income created from that to obtain the relief. In our response we emphasise the need for flexibility to comply with the new rules, the need for effective engagement for SMEs with HMRC and that the government ensures that its implementation of new international rules alongside that of other countries ensures that the UK’s Patent Box remains internationally competitive.

Following Professor Dame Sally Davies’ decision to step back from the day to day leadership role for Research and Development in the Department of Health, last week Professor Chris Whitty was appointed Chief Scientific Adviser, with the Research and Development Portfolio for the DH. Congratulations to Professor Whitty will take up his new post during December, reporting to Sally Davies the Chief Medical Officer who remains in post.

Finally, a note that as we begin the wind down to the festive period, next week will be the last Newscast of 2015.



BillCastellEarlier this year, Wellcome Trust Chairman Sir William Castell received the BIA Lifetime Achievement Award, recognising his outstanding contribution to the life sciences sector. To further commemorate and celebrate this, Bill delivered the BIA’s Annual Lecture last week. Louise Wren, a Policy Adviser at the Wellcome Trust, reflects on the lecture and a growing push to transform the UK’s innovation ecosystem.

Last week, a crowd spanning industry and academia gathered at the Wellcome Trust to hear William (Bill) Castell’s 2015 BIA Annual Lecture. Bill was perfectly placed to deliver this. He’s done much to support the UK bioscience, as have the BIA, a trade association representing Britain’s biotech sector with a membership ranging from university spin outs to multinational pharma companies.

Bill spoke about the UK’s research excellence. He said he felt lucky to work in healthcare because, if you’re successful, you can “improve the lot of humankind”. He reflected on his career spent pursuing technology platforms, noting the importance of learning from mistakes and having fun along the way. And while there is much to take pride in — including Britain’s world-class science, skills development in institutes and clusters, better commissioning across the NHS, and a growing respect for the UK’s capabilities — there are a number of barriers we must address. These include access to long-term capital, developing infrastructure to support our leading science clusters, and ensuring that university Technology Transfer Offices don’t put too much focus on generating royalties.

Some of these issues are also reflected in a Trust-commissioned analysis of the UK’s innovation ecosystem, carried out last year as part of an internal review of our intellectual property policy. In late 2014, we published a briefing which gave an overview of the findings and outlined four blocks to the effective commercialisation of life sciences research. In line with Bill’s views, these range from an academic culture that doesn’t facilitate translation, Technology Transfer Offices that fail to meet the needs of both industry and academia, a lack of funding and support for concept testing, and insufficient long-term investment to underpin commercialisation.

Over the last few months, we’ve discussed and debated our review with a wide-range of stakeholders from different sectors. While the issues it describes are not new, it’s clear that there is a real desire to address them once and for all, and make the UK one of the best places in the world to deliver ‘bench to bedside’ biomedical research. We were particularly interested in the BIA’s vision for the UK life sciences sector in 2025, published in April 2015. Although it focuses on unlocking the potential of the biotech industry, its 10 recommendations have strong synergies with our own and it charts a course that could cement this country as a world-leading biomedical cluster.

Over the coming months, we’ll be working with partners, including the BIA, to identify how we might work together to unlock barriers to translation. Yesterday, Professor Stephen Caddick joined the Trust as our new Director of Innovations and will further galvanize this. We’re also very pleased to be supporting the Office for Life Sciences’ Accelerated Access Review which aims to tackle a complex piece of the puzzle: opening up the NHS to innovative medicines and technologies.

With a collaborative push, we’re hopeful that we can challenge the widely-held belief that the UK only excels at basic science and not commercialisation, and ultimately make sure that people benefit from research discoveries as quickly as possible.

Blog originally posted by the Wellcome Trust