STATE OF THE NATION — 2017
KATE BINGHAM, MANAGING PARTNER, SV LIFE SCIENCES, SHARES HER VIEW OF THE INDUSTRY, DIVERSITY AND DEMENTIA RESEARCH
Kate, congratulations on your awards over the past year and your work with SVLS and the Dementia Discovery Fund. You are a vocal commentator on the industry; what one change would you like to happen in the next five years?
I’m not sure I’ve got a single change, but I would like to see a UK company developing a blockbuster and staying independent. We have created blockbusters, but we have yet to properly capitalise on that with a UK-based company.
We also need to see more effective collaborations between biotech and pharma because we have a tendency to think that we have to do everything ourselves. Our biotech companies are exceptional at translating innovative biology and exploring new areas of science that haven’t hit the radar with the big companies. But if we went head-tohead on a discovery programme, versus a pharma company with 50 chemists on a team, a biotech would struggle to win. So we should try to combine biotech’s innovative nimbleness in biology and translational clinical trials, with the superb chemistry and advanced clinical development skills of pharma. That would be incredibly powerful.
I’d also like to see more of those successful biotech companies being led by women.
On that point, on female leaders, is there anything specific that should happen from a policy or industry point of view?
I don’t think quotas would help, but I would like to see a widespread commitment to having women on boards. I see many women working in our portfolio companies who are ‘C’ level and very strong, but have never worked in another company as a board director. In the UK we tend to have good women medics, and in business development and commercial roles. If those women can bring their skills to another company and gain experience of sitting on a board it would make a huge difference when they move to their next, bigger job as CEO. They’ll have seen different business contexts first hand and contributed to the difficult decisions. That would be very helpful.
A lot has been said about the impact of politics on both sides of the Atlantic in 2017. What do you think gives the sector cause for a positive long-term outlook in turbulent times?
It could be a coincidence, but we have seen a lot of US investor interest in European companies recently. It may partly be a ‘Trump effect’ but also an increasing realisation that companies in the UK can be more productive and offer investors great returns. Americans are waking up to the opportunities to translate high quality UK science and the fact that it costs around 60% to achieve the same development milestones with a UK company as with a US equivalent. We are talking to new US venture capital investors looking to make significant investments in Europe and also US-based corporate venture groups making clear that they remain committed to Europe. In that way, any turbulence in the US might be helpful to Europe and the UK.
Do you think there is a shift in preference towards private financing as opposed to going public?
There has been a change in that there are a number of investors in the UK now who are able to fund private companies for longer. These are big funds – Woodford, Syncona, Touchstone Innovations, Malin, Arix, OSI and others. If that means private companies can develop their science and pipeline to a more mature state before going public that has to be a good thing. It doesn’t remove ...continued