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BIO 2019: Trends so far at the world’s biggest life sciences partnering conference


Henry French is attending BIO 2019, one of the world’s biggest and most influential annual business partnering conferences in the life sciences, to represent the ICR’s Enterprise Unit and The London Cancer Hub. As #BIO2019 gets into full swing, he gives his thoughts on the convention so far.

Posted on 05 June, 2019 by Henry French

BIO logo 945x532The Institute of Cancer Research is a part of the UK pavilion at BIO this year. It’s been a pleasure to join with colleagues from the Department for International Trade – and in particular from MedCity, which supports the life-science ecosystem across the southeast of England – in a delegation here in Philadelphia promoting excellence in the UK life sciences on a global stage.

So far, I’ve met delegates from across the world representing a wide variety of life-science businesses, from small and medium enterprises and interesting start-ups to major, established pharmaceutical firms. Everyone is here to catch up with partners, make connections, and find new contacts that could lead on to new breakthroughs in healthcare.

New therapies

One of the big themes of BIO 2019 is in cell and gene therapies. A lot of the sessions are looking at the landscape for cell and gene therapy – making it feel like the global life-science industry is on the verge of major breakthroughs here.

I saw an interesting talk on these topics from Sarah Haywood, MedCity’s Chief Executive, about its Advanced Therapies Network. The network is connecting UK experts in these therapies and offering opportunities for international involvement.  

Here at BIO, I’ve also been meeting companies who are interested in our world-leading expertise and track record at discovering and developing new targeted cancer drugs.

One of the reasons for our success in transforming our discoveries into new treatments for people with cancer is our expertise in collaborating with industry partners. We are among the top five universities worldwide for the proportion of our papers published with industry, and are first globally for the proportion of academic papers cited in patent applications.

Our partnerships with industry take many forms – from smaller-scale collaborations to major strategic partnerships. It was a pleasure to meet colleagues from Merck here at BIO, who are our partners – along with charity Cancer Research UK – in a strategic alliance in drug discovery over three research programmes.

The London Cancer Hub

In the UK Pavilion at BIO 2019, the ICR is also representing The London Cancer Hub – a life-science district and major regeneration project in south London. A centrepiece of The London Cancer Hub will be the ICR’s newly announced £75m Centre for Centre Drug Discovery, due to open in 2020, which will host the world’s first drug discovery programme dedicated to combating cancer evolution and drug resistance.

The new building – and the wider London Cancer Hub – will facilitate collaboration, stimulate innovation, and drive partnership with industry and the translation of discoveries into the clinic.

The theme of BIO 2019 is ‘It starts with one’ – referring to the ultimate impact that early, innovative ideas and partnerships can have. It’s exciting to see new partnerships being formed here and to be part of a delegation showcasing some of the best of the UK’s opportunities for global investment and collaboration in the life sciences.

At BIO 2019? Meet the ICR at the UK Pavilion at stand 3227. Or sign up to the latest news on our commercialisation work in our newsletter Connections, which highlights our work with industry.


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