CEO Update | 24 January 2022

I am looking forward to our first in-person events of 2022 this week, headlined by the BIA’s Annual Gala Dinner. This is a chance to celebrate the fantastic work undertaken by the sector throughout 2021 and raise money for our Charity Partner of the Year, Kidney Research UK. There are a few individual tickets left, so do book quickly if you are interested in attending. If you have any questions about the Gala Dinner, please contact Marzia Sguazzin.

We are also holding a pre Gala Dinner event, in the City of London, with a focus on harnessing the City’s financial firepower for UK life sciences. We will be joined by the Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP, who will also be speaking at the BIA Gala Dinner. At this event, we will look at the BIA’s report on investments into UK biotech in 2021, which will be launched this Wednesday. All I can say for now is the numbers are looking incredibly positive, so do keep an eye on our Twitter and LinkedIn for more information.

NICE Methods Review concludes

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published conclusions to its review of methods and processes for Health Technology Assessments (HTA). I thank NICE for all the work that has gone into this review over the past two years, including its continued engagement with industry and other stakeholders throughout the process, and particularly thanks to the BIA members who have supported us in this engagement.

While the review has brought some positive changes, its scope has failed to match the ambition set out at the start of the review and does not deliver on the promise of a “high ambition” methods review set out in the Government's Life Sciences Vision. By not being bolder in reform, this is a missed opportunity to ensure NICE retains its global leadership in the evaluation and appraisal of new medicines and technologies. Other countries are innovating and evolving their HTA systems faster.

Future sector response to COVID-19

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that Plan B restrictions will be lifted in England and those currently working from home will be encouraged to return to the office. It is clear that the Government is looking to move from pandemic to endemic and wants the country to start to live with the virus. To do this, the solutions from our sector will be key to avoiding further restrictions and loss of life. Dr Ruth McKernan, former Chair of the BIA, has been leading BIA’s engagement with the Government’s antiviral taskforce, Ruth has penned a fascinating blog on this workstream and the future of COVID-19 taskforces. Well worth a read.

Launch of Altos Labs confirms UK at the core of new global $3billion biotech

The UK’s life science sector’s global relevance was reinforced by the location and people at the heart of Altos Labs new $3billion (not a typo) biotech company, announced last week. Although HQ in San Francisco (where new CEO Hal Barron is based), the UK plays a significant part in the company’s global footprint. The Altos Cambridge (UK) Institute of Science will be led by Wolf Reik MD. He is a leader in epigenetic reprogramming of mammalian cells and an honorary professor of Epigenetics at the University of Cambridge, who we know best as director of the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. Altos’ activities in computational science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence will be led by Thore Graepel PhD. who was most recently a research lead at Google DeepMind and chair of Machine Learning at University College London. This validates the UK’s position as a world leader in key areas for life science development and we look forward to Altos engagement with our ecosystem.

Tony Wood appointed new GSK Chief Scientific Officer

Congratulations to Tony Wood on being appointed as GSK’s new Chief Scientific Officer. Tony is well known to the BIA, a great champion of Stevenage as a life science hub, and I’m hoping that he will be able to join us at future sector events to share his work in his new role.

BIA delivers its members voice to the government and key stakeholders

The BioIndustry Association (BIA)’s quarterly influencing report provides an overview of our continued engagement with policymakers, regulatory authorities and wider stakeholders on behalf of the UK life sciences sector and to make our members’ voices heard. In the last quarter from October 2021 to January 2022, we launched a report on the benefits of cell and gene therapies, responded to consultations on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the context of inventorship and IP and to proposals for the new Innovative Medicines Fund (IMF), produced actionable recommendations on how to scale up UK life sciences sector investment, and held engaging conferences with the bioprocessing and regulatory communities.

Steve Bates OBE
CEO, BioIndustry Association

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