In Events, Featured, News, North East News

Notes by Lucille Valentine:

Ian Shott finished his term on the board at Innovate UK at the end of June 2016.

Innovate UK is rethinking its approach, switching to pull rather than push and responding to business need rather than backing specific sectors of the economy.

Newcastle Council had not until recently understood the importance of the sector, but now they include life sciences in suite of industries.  The North East Local enterprise Partnership has also acknowledged the importance of the pharma manufacturing sector and is intending to invest.

Chris Day is to be Newcastle University’s new Vice-Chancellor – taking over in January 2017 when the current VC retires. Chris is current Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) for the Faculty of Medical Sciences.  Chris is committed to outstanding research in medicine and the life sciences and is a founder and strong supporter of the Northen Health Science Alliance



At this the first post Brexit dinner on the day that Theresa May became PM, but the cabinet had not been announced, we were asked to consider: what are the advantages of Brexit?

There is a real momentum to do good. We must get over the past and focus on what are the absolute prerequisites. There are advantages if we pull things together, if we in the UK can use this to differentiate ourselves. Brexit may generate a major problem in innovation especially with regards to funding which has had big contributions from EU –and the Universities especially have been major recipients. Some European regulatory bodies (in our sector EMA, for example) are headquartered in London and may relocate.

Phil Elstob says that Cancer Research UK is worried about talent coming through because a high proportion of research staff is non-UK European.  The Cell Therapy Catapult is in a similar position. Staff is also Orla Protein Technologies’ concern: they currently have around 50% non-UK staff.

We want open trade; we want freedom of movement where it counts to provide high level skills to the sector.

The exchange rate: the weaker Pound benefits (export) sales but hits cost of imported raw materials. We can only control what we can control. A lower exchange rate generally benefits high GVA pharma industry. Where investment is planned at MSD there is no indication that this manufacturing investment is at risk. As sites in global networks, the region’s manufacturing sites are cheaper but we must keep staff focused on this.

Risks versus opportunities? MSD UK There is work to be done to manage internal communications. Brexit is a very technical discussion – very complex – but we are in a better place to do well from this than we were 10 to 15 years ago. There is open access innovation and we have traction, we must work to help shape what we want. We must collaborate in order to compete – and this applies to universities in the region as well..


Roy Sandbach, director of the National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation (NASI) and outgoing head of the Innovation Board at the North East LEP gave an update.

NASI is working to develop new products and services to enhance the lives of the ageing population and embedding innovation inside Newcastle University. The government is now sensitised to place-based innovation and if we are very clear on what we want then now is the time to get it. They know that we are underfunded in innovation in the North East. Reflecting on where we are: in the North East there is a comparatively low number of businesses per population; we have approximately 600 businesses per 10,000 people, London is on 1400, and all other regions it is at least 900. We must build for the future; we must manage sentiment where we encounter it. For instance, regarding European-funded programs at universities: leadership by UK institutions is being (anecdotally) pulled by Europesn partners not because they think that we are less able but because organisers want certainty. What can be done to keep the sentiment high? All of us have the responsibility.

The North East LEP defines life sciences as one of four areas where the North East is expected to be world class – this includes medicines manufacturing. They need to be informed about what you need since the NELEP is the facilitator for the region. To this end there is there is a consultation taking place now – you should take part! Contact Hans Moller. Northern powerhouse: work in progress, with the potential for a great value network that develops synergies. We have a job to undertake to define the future. At the consultation meeting next week you must give the public sector representatives a clear vision of what you need.

MMIC – Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre

Clive Badman

The MMIC is being established at Strathclyde. The proposal is to work on small molecules, APIs and drug products for accelerated translation, to industrialise existing discoveries. They are building a space. Four large companies are wanted as partners and the big ten pharma companies have been approached.

The alternative that is being explored is to get a Catapult off the ground. There is a strong partnership now between CPI and Strathclyde.

Pharma companies have radically reduced their pilot plants and therefore their development streams. Eighty percent of the space at MMIC will be used by companies; the rest is for other projects.

Some of the impetus? We need about five niche products to replace each blockbuster. We must improve our manufacturing. How do we industrialise best?

Pharma companies are already practising open access innovation. To get the best of the best we must collaborate with other universities.

There is also a huge re-shoring opportunity to bring manufacturing back to the UK where conversion to continuous manufacturing brings costs down making UK price competitive. Continuous manufacturing has a long-time supporter in the FDA and specifically in the person of Dr Janet Woodcock.

What can be added in the North-East to add value?


Ian Shott has interns from all over the UK but none from the North East and has not been approached by potential interns. MSD UK “said hello to six interns this week”. Interns are students from all fields, chemistry, biotech, computing.

Lucille Valentine, as the First for Pharma student placement coordinator, must find out from companies: what do you need? She can be approached at any time to find the appropriate right student coordinator to speak to in any part of the university be it engineering, medical and biosciences, or the Business School.

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