A mid-term review of a pivotal report on the UK’s bioscience sector has been announced by Sir David Cooksey, who chaired the Bioscience Innovation and Growth Team (BIGT) responsible for the original Bioscience 2015 report published in November 2003.

Sir David, the venture capital pioneer and founder of Advent Venture Partners who more recently conducted a comprehensive review of health research funding in the UK, made the announcement at the 12th annual Gala Dinner of the BioIndustry Association (BIA). The BIA will partner with the government in conducting the mid-term assessment of Bioscience 2015, as it did when the original BIGT initiative was launched in January 2003. Sir David will once again chair the review.

He made it clear that a key focus of the review would be the financing problems that have threatened to prick the biotech balloon in recent years, just as the UK is making determined efforts to secure a competitive pharmaceutical research base.

“There have been some notable successes including the establishment of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration and the introduction of legislation to combat animal rights extremists,” Sir David commented. “However, where we have not made progress is in financing of bioscience companies. Early-stage funding is every bit as tough to get as it ever was and big pharma finds it harder to be generous to this sector. The industry, like the science, is moving on and we must ensure that we are best placed to exploit the opportunities.”
Addressing pharmaceutical business leaders last March, then Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would be asking Sir David to review the progress made since his 2003 report on the challenges facing biotechnology in the UK.

Among the key recommendations of the BIGT report were introducing legislation to deal with animal rights extremism; creating a network of bioprocessing centres across the UK; boosting financial liquidity to encourage the formation of UK biotechs with global scale and critical mass; improving the regulatory environment to accelerate the approval and use of treatments in areas of major medical need; and using the National Health Service to create a National Clinical Trials Agency.

Welcoming the review, BIA chairman Dr Clive Dix said the initiative was “timely as the financial environment for bioscience companies, especially those at early stages, is very challenging”. He noted the association’s recent moves to address these difficulties through a Fledgling Club for recently established bioscience companies and a BioAngels network to help those companies connect with so-called business angels and other investors looking to put their money into biotech innovation.