This year we are delighted that the BIVDA AGM/Spring Meeting returned to an in-person format following the pandemic, with a strong showing of members and, of course, our high-profile guest speakers. The event was held at One Great George Street in Westminster, and more than 50 attendees engaged in long awaited face-to-face networking and catching-up in between the speaker presentations.
Among the list of speakers were George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Innovation and Research, Jack Attard from the Medical Technologies Directorate at DHSC and Rosie Richards of the NHS Confederation European Office.
Members heard from our keynote speaker Minister Freeman (via video-link due to an unforeseen diary commitment) on the achievements of the IVD sector during the pandemic and thoughts on the future. Mr Freeman highlighted that the diagnostic and medtech sectors have been key elements of the UK’s defence against the virus over the past years. “This is a great moment for all of us involved in life sciences”, he commented.
Mr Freeman discussed the Life Sciences Vision and the upcoming focus on frontline diseases and patient pathways at the heart of the NHS. Life sciences is not just about “laboratory siloes in the Golden Triangle”, and this fact must be communicated to the wider British public. He went on to say that harnessing the power of the sector will help us tackle urgent UK health challenges, and close health inequality gaps.
Regarding opportunities from the pandemic, Mr Freeman noted that post-Brexit regulatory freedoms allow for enhanced agility and adoption of innovative technologies into healthcare. The UK must move forward to “create pathways into the NHS, with NICE as the gatekeeper”. NICE’s five-year strategy was published this year, and its core purpose is to drive improved outcomes for patients and value for money. NICE can grow to be “a world leading economics-house”, especially given its new autonomy from the NHS.
The new £60 million Life Sciences Manufacturing Fund was also addressed by the Minister; a programme that will make sure the value of advanced medicines and diagnostics is captured for the UK. Mr Freeman said that “not for the first time, BIVDA is at the heart of this [life sciences] landscape”, and that he and Lord Kamall are motivated to support the medtech and IVD sectors so that patients achieve improved pathways outcomes.
We were delighted to welcome Jack Attard, Supply Resilience Lead of the Medical Technologies Directorate at DHSC. Mr Attard spoke about the preparations underway for the Diagnostics Strategy, that is expected to be published this summer. Members were informed about the Ministerial Roundtable that took place on 22 March. BIVDA attended the event, along with other life science trade associations (no private organisations were in attendance). The Ministerial Roundtable was an opportunity to focus on setting the conclusions of the Strategy and demand signalling in the short and mid-term. You can read more info on this here.
Among the aims of the Strategy are clearing the backlog, sourcing additional equipment, boosting interoperability, developing a workforce plan and the expanded roll-out of Community Diagnostic Centres. The intentions of the Strategy Implementation group will focus on mapping development pathways, creation of a data repository and an annual policy survey, among others. Mr Attard’s team in Supply Resilience will also be examining in close detail the vulnerabilities for diagnostic companies in terms of supply chains.
Rosie Richards, Head of European Data and Research Policy at NHS European Office, took members through her office’s work, the implications of Brexit on the NHS, IVD suppliers and the work to ensure EU/UK regulatory alignment and formalisation to the Horizon Europe programme.
Ms Richards discussed the work that BIVDA contributes to in terms of European engagement on medical devices and IVDs. BIVDA is a member of the European Health Stakeholder Group, and a major contributor to MedTech Europe. Also in the presentation was a list of the asks and results regarding European regulations. These include the UK-EU data adequacy agreement, uninterrupted supply of medicines into Northern Ireland, and the eligibility of UK researchers to join the EU4Health Programme.
A key element of on-going talks is the UK’s formal association to Horizon Europe. The UK Government has recently ensured a continuity of funding for researchers who have projects signed before 2022. It is hoped that formal association can be achieved, and BIVDA will be engaging further with the NHS European Office and the European Health Stakeholder Group on these campaigning efforts. Members will be kept up-to-date on developments.
In addition to our speakers, we heard from the Working Party Chairs (including Genomics, Regulatory Affairs, Procurement, Near Patient Testing and External Affairs WPs).
Helen Dent presented on “Member Benefits – How We Work for You”, where she announced a new Legal and Business Working Party, and that the COVID Taskforce and AMR groups will be joined into a new Infectious Disease Working Party. It was highlighted that all BIVDA’s work is geared towards our membership, and we call on all members to contribute as much as they can to Working Party meeting agendas and suggestion of ideas of what they would like from the Secretariat strategy.
Dr David Gaze from the University of Westminster presented on the topic of university placements for life science students and connected with attendees in the main lobby throughout the morning.
BIVDA’s outgoing Chair, Darren Stenlake, handed over his position to our new Chair Helen Tucker. Attendees listened to an introductory few words from Helen about her new position, and she repeated the call for member engagement to drive BIVDA activities. Also announced were the results of the Executive Board member election process, with the re-election of three previous Board members who will continue to serve in their positions: Darren Stenlake, Richard Hames, and Jag Grewal. Congratulations to all of you on your re-election and thank you to the other nominated individuals for applying. Your ongoing support to BIVDA is hugely appreciated.
A big thank you at all the members who travelled to Westminster to attend, and to our wonderful speakers for a highly successful AGM. We now look ahead to a busy summer schedule for the BIVDA secretariat, the Board, our Working Parties, and preparations for the MGM/BIVDA Seminar taking place on 12 October 2022 (more info here).