BIA: Bringing success for its members




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Video title: BIA: Bringing success for its members
Released on: August 25, 2009. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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Dr Fintan Walton talks with Aisling Burnard, CEO of the BioIndustry Association (BIA) at the BIA Leadership Summit in Hertfordshire.

Aisling describes the purpose of the BIA and how it measures success. Topics covered include:

• What the BIA is about and how it differentiates itself from the regional associations through policy, public affairs, talking to the media and influencing government

• Measurement of success against its 3 year plan

• How it influences the European Union through lobbying and its involvement with EuropaBio

• The Association’s goals, (in relation to business issues, funding and helping members understand what is available to them, and the regulatory pathway) for the next 3-5 years
BioIndustry Association history and it's functions and measuring of successes.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures business review here at the BIA Leadership Summit in Hertfordshire in the UK. On this show I have Aisling Burnand who is the Chief Executive of BIA, the BioIndustry Association here in the UK. Welcome to the show.
Aisling Burnand:
Thank you very much.
Fintan Walton:
Aisling Burnand, you play a critical role obviously in BIA. First of all just for our audience tell us what BIA is about and its function?
Aisling Burnand:
Well the BioIndustry Association is the national trade association for the bioscience sector in the United Kingdom and we represent our members interest to how venture stake holders and importantly government but also the media and we also provide a good forum for networking, exchanging best practice so that hopefully our members can thrive in and go forward and prosper.
Fintan Walton:
So how would you set your performance criteria for success? How would you measure your own successes in organization?
Aisling Burnand:
We are very focused so we have a three-year plan and operational plans and so in terms of how do we measure success often it will come down to -- you know how we make progress against the plan and turning that into that into something that is sort of you know -your viewers will find is interesting it's really you know can we be successful in influencing on important matters. So at in our current three-year plan we are very focused on trying to do something about the funding environment and the habitat it has been so challenging and this is something that we worked on for numerous years. But obviously since January we've been working very hard with the office of life science to try and see whether we can bring about some funding to help support the sector.
Aisling Burnand:
Sure.
Aisling Burnand:
And of course we had an announcement on Monday which had seen a 150 million pounds of government money being put into a fund. So in terms of measuring success it's all about the outputs.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Aisling Burnand:
And success is very often on have been able to influence the particular piece of legislation, another example would be the work we did on animal rights extremism where it was very challenging for many companies and many in the sector several years ago by focusing on trying to ensure that the police have the right tools in which they could do the job very much you know the right infrastructure legislation we were able working with some of the people as part of a coalition to influence and to bring about changes to the policing act at that time which then saw the right resource being put behind what was required and of course we've seen a real tail off fortunately in the -- that sort of extremist behavior because of our lobbying activity.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Aisling Burnand:
So that's a sort of working you know in terms of -- some times the challenge for us is that it takes a while. It can sometimes take three-years from the beginning of what needs to change this delivery.
Lobbying with governments.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah clearly. And but clearly you know it sounds like as you're trying to create the right environment for biotechnology in this industry or in this country but what about things like overall success in biotech -- I mean you are representing the biotech industry per say so would you measure for an example the number of biotechnology companies you know the people employed within the biotechnology industry, the number of patents that actually end up being commercialized would that be -- would those the other criteria that you could look at?
Aisling Burnand:
I think there is the criteria that have been used traditionally to judge you know is the bioscience sector thriving so how many jobs, how many you know how many companies, I mean I think that are all helpful statistics to show you know how many companies formed for example. I think they're all helpful. But I think they can sometime distort sometimes you know you can see that some of those figures can distort what we believe to be successful. However that said some are important and obviously company formation in the current environment is one where we would see that there has been a decline and also just looking at the now amount of companies perhaps that are you know surviving on very little money at the moment.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Aisling Burnand:
Those are sort of you know hard facts that help us focus our activity in terms of and in terms of also this sort of breadth that we look at once I said we are very much about representing the voice of the sector to UK Government. We also do quite lot of work at European level.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Aisling Burnand:
Because so much of what comes to the UK M&A it is from Brussels [ph] and with the EMEA in the area of regulation.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Aisling Burnand:
You can't wait until it comes back here.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.
Aisling Burnand:
So, we've been very active earlier on trying to ensure that we know what's coming down the track and influencing it at European level for some of the European Trade Associations. So that effectively we've minimized that sort of problems that could come down the line and that's just been through experience learning and (indiscernable).
Aisling Burnand:
So you are lobbying governments you are lobbying the European Union.
Aisling Burnand:
Yeah.
Fintan Walton:
What about the people of Britain, do you think that the you know you mentioned things like animal rights issues and so forth. Are -- is the function of BIA also to communicate to the people -- to the people of Britain so they can understand the value of Biotechnology or is it -- is it just a to continue to lobbying with governments and larger bodies?
Aisling Burnand:
Well, I think our approach has been very much to identify the issues that matter to our members and then work out to the people that they need to be communicated to and so in some instance a wider communication with the general public is desirable because if you don't bring the public along with you then you are probably not going to get the success that you need and I would say animal -- the animal extremism side being one of those where it wasn't enough just to talk about you know specific legislation one had to talk about why this using announced medical research was something that allowed us to get medicines safely to market for example and then on things like embryonic stem cells you know there -- when you are trying to get and this is going to be a vote�
Fintan Walton:
Exactly.
Aisling Burnand:
In parliament, the public and the media become very interested and therefore you have to be able to speak to a wider audience. So therefore talking I mean I've spent that would of a background in terms of working for the media and so you know from very early on have spent time talking to journalist and have always made sure that we respond very quickly when asked for comment on the subjects that are of importance to us. So absolutely we have a role to do that. It would always be lovely to have more resource and I think because still the sector is quite embryonic in this country we have to do what we can do with the resources that we've got.
Fintan Walton:
So when somebody looks at the government matching funds to the tune of one billion pounds which is tax payers money you would also have to communicate why tax payers money should be used in that way?
Aisling Burnand:
Absolutely, I mean and really on this side of things it's about you know turning the for example trying to marry the health interests of the country with the economic interests of the country so that you know we can translate them among the governments we are putting so much money into the science space and that has been excellent. But we need to be able to see that translated and turned into a products and services that are effective against pay for your pension and my pension.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Aisling Burnand:
You know as we get older and so there is a relationship between sort of the business side and the broader side and that is a role for us to talk about.
How BIA differentiates itself from the regional associations through policy, public affairs, talking to the media and influencing government.
Fintan Walton:
Where do you see the BIA in relation to the other bodies, in Cambridge for an example you've got ERBI, in Oxford we've got ERBI-N [ph] the Oxford Biotechnology network and you've got the LBN in London how where does the BIA sit in relation to those other organizations that also claim to serve the local biotechnology industry?
Aisling Burnand:
Well with the, the trade association set up for biotech companies and have been existence for 20-years. How I think we can differentiate I think we've had a very clear policy public affairs role in terms of influencing government and taking a view nationally on what is important for the UK whether it's benchmarking against other countries etc. I think that's something that I think we have, we do and have done well and have had something you know many successes in. what I think and where I think the groups in the regions provide an excellent service is in you know in listening to their members needs locally in providing you know a local Wednesday [ph] event on a key topic and also spreading best practice regionally. They can reach out to many more often perhaps in a body sitting in one part of the country although we do try and we do work very closely with some of the regional organizations to try and get that synergy right because I think at the end we should -- many of the members of these other organizations are members of the BIA.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Aisling Burnand:
And what's important is that we have complementary activity and indeed you have sort of earlier in the week I was talking to my regional colleagues about the announcement and what it meant and what it meant indeed for their members so that effectively they could you know sort of talk more directly to their members about some of that sort of thing.
How it influences the European Union through lobbying and its involvement with EuropaBio.
Fintan Walton:
What about the relationships with the European Body, EuropaBio?
Aisling Burnand:
Yeah.
Fintan Walton:
What's your relationship with them because obviously they are trying to do one of the things you mentioned which is to lobby and to communicate with the European Union?
Aisling Burnand:
Yeah.
Fintan Walton:
what you see?
Aisling Burnand:
Well I am at the EuropaBio level and I've been on their board for the past four-years I basically have chaired the National Association Council which I literally stepped off last week and during my tenure we focused on looking at how could we move as national associations to support more actively the work that was been done within EuropaBio on a range of issues, health issues, some agricultural, some industrial because EuropaBio covers a broad spectrum and really use the national associations to go and talk to their own MEP's or perhaps sometimes the commissioners and other officials so that we could effectively, hopefully impact or have an influence on certain pieces of legislation that were being tabled or that might be being tabled. So that's very, very important and indeed you know Bio is a you know several weeks ago and we also have met.
Fintan Walton:
In the US at Atlanta. Yes.
Aisling Burnand:
In the US at Atlanta and we've met usually twice a year once in the States and once somewhere else as heads of associations globally and there we are looking at international issues you know things that the WHO might be looking at the United Nations and effectively trying to horizon scan what's coming next and what can we do about it. So although with the national body and spend significant part of what we do focusing on domestic issues you can't do that in isolation.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Aisling Burnand:
You have to work Europe to US and also connect with the regions.
Memberships at BIA.
Fintan Walton:
Just recently for an example the APPI the pharmaceutical industry here expelled Roche from their membership. Would you expel a biotech company or a pharmaceutical company from your membership if you felt need to?
Aisling Burnand:
I believe that we have it in our articles of associations so I believe the board has the right to be able to expel a member that it feels is not behaving in a particular way. I don't know enough about that particular case.
Fintan Walton:
Case.
Aisling Burnand:
But you know and many trade organizations have in their articles something about that. So I mean it's not something that we ever had it to do.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Aisling Burnand:
And but I know that we had we did develop 10-years ago a code of best practice and that helped you know sort of govern the challenging situation in the sector decades ago opposed to the British Biotech where things had become very challenge for the sector and that code helped you know sort of a readdress.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Aisling Burnand:
And we ended up some setting at because now the FSA rules are really you know far tighter than decade was and they govern those things.
Fintan Walton:
Of course, in the membership you've got obviously biotechnology companies, you have pharmaceutical companies as members as well?
Aisling Burnand:
We do. we have our primary focus is on emerging enterprise and those companies with whom those companies trade. So majority of our members are SME's small medium size companies you know often employing less than 20 people. But we do have a range of larger companies some pharmaceutical and so what I would call some large bio that are US in their parentage but have a significant you know infrastructure here in the UK and indeed I mean, I personally went out and sort those companies when I took over six-years ago to kind of bring balance to the work that we were doing.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.
Aisling Burnand:
So, yes we do have those and there into why you know why they would be part of the organization, well because they know that we focused very much on research and development and they see that's a very important agenda for them and that they also understand creating this sort of symbiotic relationship between large companies and small companies is very, very important and I think increasingly is becoming importance so I think more are beginning to say we think this is important.
Involvement with EuropaBio
Fintan Walton:
You mentioned Europe isn't most of the legislation happening in Europe, isn't the biggest issue for biotechnology the European issue. And therefore isn't it really necessary, more necessary for BIA to work closely with EuropaBio or other organizations within Europe? Do you say I mean if in terms of effort is the effort that BIA has to give to the UK versus the Europe has to be equally balanced by effort in the European Union, would you think that?
Aisling Burnand:
And I think, I mean we decided about five to six-years ago that we needed to make sure that we were working in Europe not necessarily having people physically based there, but we were absolutely because to wait till things come back here to answer your question was too late, it is the place where things start and the directives that come out have to be implemented by national governments. So if you haven't -- if you haven't influenced the process then what do you end up with are often directives that you know perhaps become you know unworkable or create a huge distortion when they are implemented, when they're back in the nation -- shouldn't be like that and should be very clear when you got directive that everybody you know introduces it in the same way but it often isn't the case. So I think through experience we know we need to be influencing that. I think how we -- how we have chosen to do it is very much via the European trade groups that are there and EuropaBio is the one I spoke about, there are others but to make sure that they understand what's important and to be involved in their committees. That's said I mean it's interesting because you know things like the human tissue authority or the MHRA are leaders globally and so one working with them as well at the same time sometimes you know in anticipation of what might come or opposed to the implemented things is also important. So it would be lovely to be able to focus just solely in one jurisdiction it just doesn't work like that.
The Association's goals for the next 3-5 years.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Just one final question in terms of what you are trying to -- trying to do you mentioned getting the fund for biotechnology and going with government sponsored fund when you call it that. What other horizons what other goals do you have in the next three to five-years?
Aisling Burnand:
Okay. I may think the funding environment and as I said we are just trying to improve on that is such a big area. Then it's about some of this sort of business issues that can come crop up along the way and some of those could be regulatory and some of those could be sometimes IP issues those sorts of things that crop up. So in terms of you know we are very clear that our focus for the next three-years is on trying to improve the funding environment. One on the policy side but two is also looking at how can we help our members better understand what sources of funding are actually out there that they could tap into if we were in an environment where perhaps you know there is limited capital making sure they understand what is there is vitally important. So we've got a piece of work underway which we were hopefully then be able to roll out which would allow our members very much to see you know where -- it given the stage development and where they could go for sources of funding. So funding is important, regulatory always is. can we simplify the regulatory pathway so that the companies have a more straight forward way of moving through the clinical trial process and the ethics process etc. That's very important and improving things like and continuing to improve the clinical research infrastructure in this country, so that you know hopefully in time more of our members can come back to conduct things.
Fintan Walton:
What about pricing?
Aisling Burnand:
Pricing we've been involved with and we've been involved in it sort of looking at it from a -- as per as an SME angle. We were involved with PPRS because we were main part of the OPI board and so we were able to influence and talking about successes to -- we influenced that agenda to ensure that there were some positive steps made in terms of how smaller companies are treated in that process. So you can't, the pricing and the nice discussions that are going on at the moment with the (indiscernable) review on what's that against it. If one focuses solely on the R&D agenda you might find that there are hurdles that are put up sort of further down the track that then become a problem. So I think what we are trying to say you know 80% of our work we focus on SME issues but we keep horizon scan and then -- and work on the pricing issue the access you know kind of the uptake of innovation but through the SME lens so that hopefully when our companies make through a clinical trial process they don't suddenly find that they been cut off of the knees and may have -- they don't actually have a viable business that was just so important.
Fintan Walton:
Aisling Burnand, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show. Thank you.
Aisling Burnand:
Pleasure.
Aisling Burnard
Chief Executive Officer
Aisling Burnandhas been Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association (BIA) since February 2003. Aisling Burnand joined the BIA in September 1998 as Director of Public Affairs, and has been responsible for all aspects of the Association's internal and external communications programmes. In 2001 she became Deputy Chief Executive. In June 2007 Aisling Burnand was awarded an MBE for her services to science. Prior to joining the BIA, Aisling Burnand was Business Group Director for the Rowland Company, a London based public affairs consultancy, where her clients included the European Commission as well as companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, financial and consumer products sectors. Before that, she was head of international media relations for Rhone Poulenc in Paris and prior to that Public Relations Manager for Rhone Poulenc in the UK. Aisling Burnand sits on the Boards of EuropaBio, the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) and the Coalition for Medical Progress (CMP), and is a member of the London Stock Exchange Technology Advisory Group. Aisling Burnand is also a member of the Ministerial Industry Strategy Group, Long Term Leadership Strategy, Working Group on Partnership.
BioIndustry Association
The BioIndustry Association (BIA) is the trade association for innovative enterprises in the UK 's bioscience sector. Established in 1989, its mission is to �encourage and promote a thriving, financially sound sector of the UK economy, built upon developments across the biosciences.� The BIA seeks to create economic growth, increase employment opportunities and expand the skills base.