CEO of the BioIndustry Association (BIA), Steve Bates explores how the UK government is supporting biotech in order to create innovative medicines
The UK has some of the world’s most exciting science, a supportive business environment, and strong companies led by experienced management teams. It also has a unique ecosystem that is wider than just industry, with world-leading universities (the top 2 universities in the world), charity sector and institutes. In terms of financing, UK practices of supporting biotech attract the most venture capital financing in Europe and the third most in the world.
As the nation looks towards Brexit in 2019, the government has taken steps to help ensure the future of the sector. The recent release of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and new proposals for sector funding in the Patient Capital Review are important steps forward in ensuring that the industry can continue to thrive and provide cutting-edge treatments for patients.
The BIA has long called for a revived industrial strategy to maintain and build investment into the UK and grow and scale the UK’s innovative bioscience companies. The strategy provides a wide-ranging view of many of the issues that underpin the life sciences ecosystem, including discovery and translational science, NHS collaboration, manufacturing and skills.
It also challenges the sector to engage further with the opportunities in healthcare presented by new technology through the proposed Health Advanced Research Programme (HARP). The industry will continue to engage with government, to ensure that this strategy can pave the way for an impactful sector deal that can help deliver the BIA’s vision to establish the UK as the third global cluster for life sciences.
Alongside the publication of the strategy, the government also announced a new £13 million funding competition for a medicines manufacturing centre, a £66 million investment in a vaccines development and manufacturing centre, a £30 million investment in cell and gene therapy treatment centres, a £12 million cell and gene therapy investment in Stevenage and £25 million to support SMEs and boost innovation.
These new investments and funding competitions bring to life the calls the BIA has made, both individually and through collaborations such as the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership, to grow our industry’s future. It is great to see SMEs front and centre of the government’s vision for the UK life sciences sector.
For the sector to achieve its potential and ambition, a sea change in the levels of scale-up capital and fiscal support is required. It is great to see many of the necessary actions the BIA has called for in this strategy, from reform of Entrepreneurs Relief to making R&D tax credits work better for SMEs. These recommendations, alongside the focus of the forthcoming Patient Capital Review, provide a great foundation to take the UK’s life sciences sector to the next level.
The aim of the Patient Capital Review is to strengthen the UK further as a place for growing innovative firms to obtain the long-term ‘patient’ finance that they need to scale up, building on current best practices and the BIA recently made its own submission to the review.
The UK has world-leading science and commercial skills to truly change and improve the world in the 21st century. Exciting breakthroughs are happening almost every day in cell and gene therapy, genomics and engineering biology. UK bioscience companies have global ambitions but have long-lacked the domestic financial support they need to scale and take on their US and Asian rivals.
It’s great to see the government taking this issue seriously and willing to work with industry to address it through the Patient Capital Review. Critically, we need to open up opportunities for pension funds and other large investors to support the growth of innovative UK businesses. The proposed National Innovation Fund is an exciting and promising action that the government should take forward.
This will secure greater economic activity and support the creation of high-value sustainable jobs across the UK, whilst helping to address the deficits that many of our pension funds are facing. The BIA submission sets out a series of practical measures that alongside the forthcoming sector deal for life sciences will enable the UK to become the leading place in the world to discover and develop new therapies and technologies for patients, and scale businesses to a global level to capture their full economic potential.
For more information on all the latest UK biotech policy developments go to the BIA’s website www.bioindustry.org.
BioIndustry Association (BIA)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7630 2180