Memorandum from the BioIndustry Association
1. The BioIndustry Association (the "BIA")
is the trade association for innovative, emerging small to medium
sized enterprises in the UK's bioscience sector. Established in
1989, the BIA's mission is to encourage and promote a thriving,
financially sound sector of the UK economy, built upon developments
across the biosciences, to create economic growth, employment
and an expanding skills base. There are over 550 bioscience companies
operating in the UK employing over 40,000 people.
2. The BIA has over 350 members,
the majority of whom are involved in realising the human health
benefits that biotechnology promises. The BIA seeks to represent
the interests of these innovative companies to the Government
and regulatory authorities and to present positive evidence based
suggestions for policy change that assist a healthy UK bioscience
sector and benefit the UK as whole.
3. The UK is already a global leader in
biosciences, second only to the US, with 18 profitable bioscience
companies and over 40 marketed products. The industry employs
more than 25,000 people and generates revenues of over £3
billion a year. British biotechnology companies account for 43%
of all biotechnology drugs in advanced clinical trials in Europe.
4. The BIA welcomes this opportunity to
contribute to the Science and Technology Committee's consultation
on The Future of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).
The NIMR performs a vital function currently, but this role could
be enhanced to add further value to the research industry in the
UK. Moreover, the siting of the NIMR in Mill Hill has always been
somewhat quixotic, and we welcome a thorough review of its location.
5. This submission addresses three issues
which the BIA feel are crucial considerations in assessing the
future viability and function of the NIMR:
(a) The role of translational research.
(b) The future location of the NIMR.
(c) The question of co-locating an industrial
park with the NIMR at Mill Hill.
6. I would like to comment on three specific
aspects of the NIMR and its future that I believe the Medical
Research Council (MRC) addressed in their review.
The role of translational research
7. There is a big gap, in the UK and globally,
between what is known in the lab and what happens in the clinic.
In part, this is a natural consequence of the inherent difference
in the pace of advances in each area, but there are also structural
aspects. We are experiencing major changes in our basic understanding
of biology and the causes of disease driven by a scientific focus
to understand basic biological mechanisms. And yet medicine seems
still to have almost an 18th century structure with its practitioners
divided into organ-focused specialists so that, for example, inflammation
in the brain is treated by a neurologist and inflammation in a
joint is treated by a Rheumatologist. There is a fundamental challenge
to bring the benefits of research into the practice of medicine
(and to have the real day to day challenges of clinicians inform
research) and a real role for an institute that would focus on
leading that change. With the possible exception of Cancer Research
UK, this is not being addressed in the U.K. The US National Institutes
of Health are planning to play a big role in this area and the
UK also needs to address it.
8. The NIMR's location "out at Mill
Hill" has always given it a sense of physical isolation.
Oddly, it almost seems closer and easier to go from Central London
to Cambridge or Oxford than it does to go to Mill Hill. Whatever
role the institute has in the future, a Mill Hill location will
not encourage collaboration. This would be particularly important
for a translational research institute since close collaboration
with clinicians and other health/research professionals would
be vital. It seems unanswerable that it should be co-located on
a site with world-class research and hospital facilities.
Building an industrial park co-located with the
NIMR at Mill Hill
9. The idea of intentionally planning a
significant industrial campus around a research institute to encourage
industrial collaboration is not viable. Geography is a less important
factor than scientists' personal networks when it comes to establishing
new companies or commercialising science generally. The most important
thing a research institute can do to attract industry is to be
great at what it does. It should also be open to scientists being
networked with relevant companies, and more importantly their
staff, and themselves being open to the possibility of commercialising
their work. If those things are in place, established industry
will collaborate with the institute and new companies will form.
Some of these may initially want to co-locate with the institute
but not enough to justify investment in a site in an expensive
10. Whilst high tech companies may locate
near to where their founding scientists are or want to be, more
often they form in areas where they can quickly recruit the right
management and staff as they grow, and access networks of colleagues
and advisers etc which is why clusters form. Clusters have grown
organically and it has proven difficult to intentionally plan
11. The relative isolation of Mill Hill
would be a drawback to the ultimate success of such a research
23 November 2004
6 A full list of BIA members is available on the BIA
website at www.bioindustry.org Back