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Supporting Growth, Competitiveness and Innovation

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With factors such as the economic downturn and the pharmaceutical patent cliff, it is undeniable that the landscape of funding within science is changing. In this climate companies face tough trading conditions. 

UK-based organisation Bionow works to provide the tools and support for companies within the biomedical and life sciences sector in the North of England. To learn more about the challenges companies are facing and the support Bionow offers we spoke to Dr Geoff Davison, CEO of Bionow. 

AB: Can you tell me a little about Bionow?

Geoff Davison (GD): We're a membership organisation, covering the North of England, focused on the biomedical and life science sector which includes pharma, biotech, analytics, diagnostics, healthcare, medical devices and the specialist supply chain. Our membership base ranges from very small businesses all the way through to large corporates. 

AstraZeneca is our corporate patron, but the vast majority of our members are small and medium-sized businesses. We have a range of benefits for companies that are at different stages of development, from start-up through development and into clinical trials and beyond, into the market. These benefits range from saving on the cost of lab equipment and consumables, through to insurance, recruitment, training, networking, support and events (both regional and national) such as BioCap, which looks at funding. We also organise specialist conferences like BioInfect, which is focused on new antimicrobials and is in its second year of running.

AB: What are the some of the current challenges faced by biomedical and life science companies? Are these more severe in the North of England?

GD: There are a number of challenges, but primarily, it’s access to funding. Our recent BioCap Conference focussed on the access small businesses have to funding and how that's driven by changes in the market place. 

The Blockbuster model is broken in Big Pharma. They're looking for small, more niche products now and they're obviously a bit more risk-averse, as are investors. Investors find it difficult to understand this sector and the risk profiles, so companies struggle to raise the finance they need and reach a point where they become attractive to major investors.

AB: How does Bionow help overcome these challenges?

GD: The main way in which we help is by monitoring the growth and trends within the cluster and in keeping close to our Members who can tell us their issues first hand. This helps us to design products and services that are tailored to the needs of our Members.  Our membership has been growing year on year and the market is now starting to show signs of improvement from a funding perspective. Bionow facilitates connections within the cluster, bringing people and companies together and through providing a platform to share news and success.  Bionow’s events create a place and a time to do business, to forge the initial links from which collaborations can grow.

Our focus is on growing membership by taking it to more people.

I think the key thing for us is to keep universities engaged and help leverage their capabilities because it’s part of their strategic agenda to engage with the small and medium-sized enterprises. They seem to think we can do that and we now have seven universities who are supporters. We may break into the NHS at some stage as well and benefit from the support that they can give. We see the future as bright.

AB: Do you have any success stories you can share?

GD: BioCap is the only specialist life science and investment showcase conference in the North of England, bringing together international investors, companies who are seeking finance and those companies who already have a track record of raising finance.  BioCap 2014 went ahead on 29 September with 170 delegates and 14 companies pitching for investment, highlighting the wealth of life science investment opportunities in the North of England.  We received some very positive feedback from our Members and others who attended.  The date is already in the diary for BioCap 2015 – 30 September 2015 at Alderley Park.

AB: Finally you will be hosting BioInfect at the Alderley Park Conference Centre on 4th November, can you tell me more about the conference and its key themes?

GD: The conference will again bring scientists, policy makers and government officials from across the world to drive forward and establish the global anti-microbial agenda.

In order to tackle growing levels of antimicrobial resistance, we need to address this global problem in a truly coordinated way to ensure that we have a health care system that can sustainably control and treat infections. BioInfect is a wonderful opportunity to bring together professionals from the life sciences industry, government and policy making bodies and explore the areas which can truly address this problem for mankind.

More information on Bionow can be found by visiting www.bionow.co.uk 

Dr Geoff Davison was speaking to Ashley Board, Managing Editor for Technology Networks.