Science, the State, and the City:
Britain’s Struggle to Succeed in Biotechnology

Held on July 21 2016


  • Sir Geoffrey Owen

  • Michael Hopkins

  • Mike Standing (Deloitte)

  • Colin Hailey (Confluence Tax)



Earlier this year, OUP published an important book on Britain’s continuing struggle to build a world-class biotech industry. It sets out to answer the key questions – in particular, why (despite a strong science base and wodges of government cash) Britain has failed to produce any world-leading biotech enterprises comparable to Amgen, Biogen or Gilead in the US. And its record in “small pharma” isn’t too hot either.

This is not a comfortable book, and its conclusions – about the UK VC industry, about the benefits of government support, about biotech policy more generally – are not comfortable. Unfortunately, they have implications well beyond biotech, and go to the heart of the UK’s peculiar malaise – its inability to bridge the gap between the lab and the global market. In that sense, the book is also an indictment of the City – and, inevitably, of City short-termism.

These are (as they have been for many years) important issues – and they will become even more important if, post-Brexit, Britain has to lean more heavily on the global market. We are, therefore, delighted that the book’s two authors have agreed to discuss their findings, and to expand on the implications for UK plc:

  • Sir Geoffrey Owen is currently a visiting professor at LSE, but most of us know him as a distinguished former editor of the Financial Times (1980-1990).
  • Michael Hopkins is a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex and Director of Research at SPRU. His research focuses on policies and strategies for biomedical innovation.

I am also delighted that Mike Standing and Colin Hailey have agreed to kick off the response. Mike is Deloitte’s Life Sciences and Health Care EMEA leader, with over 20 years’ experience in the industry. Colin is a founder of Confluence Tax LLP and the current chairman of the Finance and Tax Advisory Committee of the Biotechnology Association.

This is an important subject, opening up a wider debate about the commercialisation of academic excellence and the limitations of early-stage and VC funding. If you (or a colleague) would like to join us for what I am sure will be a fascinating discussion, please let us know by emailing or by calling the office on 020 7621 1056. As usual, sandwiches and refreshments will be provided – and (OUP willing) there will be copies of the book available, for signing by the authors.