PIR International approached a range of BioLeaders for their thoughts on the current pandemic; with the benefit of their sector experience, their comments offer insights for the industry and policy makers; and practical thoughts on what individual companies are doing to ensure operational protocols are adjusted to continue to meet milestones.

David Roblin, Chair of Translation Medicine at the Francis Crick Institute

‘…Our sector’s role is to innovate. Never has our work been more important. I would ask colleagues to be impatient with themselves but patient with physicians on the front line; they have a huge amount to cope with but are looking for help. Listen to them and the nature of the infection; it is biphasic and clearly involves a significant ARDS and cytokine storm. Design our experiments accordingly. And please, please let’s do good experiments with appropriate controls. We must have interpretable data; the hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir work tells us this.

We will innovate our way through this crisis. When we do economic recovery will be required and our sector is one of the key drivers to this. So, my last plea is that if you cannot be involved in a direct way in this crisis please move your ideas and science forward to health and wealth impact. We will need them as we repair the economy.’

Jackie Hunter, Executive Board Director at BenevolentAI

‘At Benevolent our scientists used our technology platform to identify promising drugs that could be repurposed for the treatment of Covid-19. One of those, the most promising, was an Eli Lilly drug called baricitinib which is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. We were able to identify some additional anti-viral properties of the molecule in addition to its anti-inflammatory effects which would therefore make it a good candidate for use in patients with COVID. Eli Lilly was able to confirm and extend our hypothesis and have worked with the NIH to put the molecule into clinical trials.

This pandemic shows how essential it is for us to develop new medicines rapidly and I hope that some of the agility that the industry, governments and regulators have shown in expediting testing and trials will carry over and influence the way we develop new therapies for all diseases in the future.’

Giulio Cerroni, CEO of Ixico Plc

‘…My advice to UK government is to support business leaders to “scale the UK diagnostic industry at pace”. Covid-19 has exposed the current limitations in protecting the UK population and economy by having less laboratory capacity than many other European countries, and, in the past, we have been slow to adopt diagnostic innovation at scale. This has led to too high a reliance on a supply chain from multinational US, Swiss or German diagnostic companies rather than providing the opportunity for home-grown diagnostic businesses to thrive.

The bottom line is we all need to play our role in re-invigorating our UK diagnostics industry so that we rapidly build the country’s diagnostics testing capabilities, whilst also developing companies that become world leaders in emerging digital health markets. Government, investors and business leaders will need to commit to make long term commitments and work much more closely together in order to build the platforms required to deliver sustained, national capabilities to support the nation’s health, economy and well-being for the long term.’