December 19, 2019

Life Sciences Forum – a few reflexions

A fantastic group of speakers were lined up.

These included

  1. H.E. Torbjörn Sohlström the Ambassador of Sweden to the UK, who spoke about the co-operation between Sweden and the UK.
  2. Ross Hammerman, Co-Head of Americas Healthcare Investment Banking, Deutsche Bank AG, who spoke about some of the market trends at the moment.
  3. Dr. Johan Christenson, Partner, HealthCap, which is one of the largest venture funds in the life sciences industry.
  4. Kristina Lagerstedt, CEO 1928 Diagnostics, who spoke about how technology can improve diagnosing diseases.
  5. Leif Johansson, Non-Executive Chairman of the Board, AstraZeneca

The keynote speaker was Leif Johansson, who has been Chairman at AstraZeneca since 2012. Mr Johansson has been instrumental in the continued development of AstraZenca, which amongst other things has included rebuffing the Pfizer’s takeover attempt and increasing the turnover of AstraZeneca significantly.

Mr Johansson’s speech contained many highlights. It was interesting to hear how AI is used in the development of new medicine and medical devices. AI deals with and interprets an extraordinary huge amount of data generated in medical research and drug making. Many probably view AI as something new and something that may be used more the future. However, AI is already here and being used extensively including in the pharmaceutical sector. It will be a challenge for regulators and businesses to decide how best to use this technology.

It was also interesting to hear about AstraZeneca’s approach to capital markets. Being listed AstraZeneca is obviously very dependent on the views of the capital markets. AstraZeneca’s approach has been; start with the patient and then turn to the markets to reassure them, to ask for investment or inform them about new developments. This is only possible with a strong R&D pipeline, that has made it possible for AstraZeneca to develop market leading products with strong sales.

Brexit was also touched upon. AstraZeneca has invested significant sums in its facility in Cambridge. Whilst Mr Johansson admitted that AstraZeneca probably would have been reluctant to make such a commitment in the UK at this present point given the current Brexit uncertainty, he did stress that he could not see why the UK would not continue to be a world leader in the Life Science industry after Brexit. However, at an initial stage the UK’s relationship with the EU must be clarified.

That the UK will still be attractive for many Life Sciences companies was an encouraging statement. However, it underlines how necessary it is for companies from all sectors to prepare for Brexit. With the withdrawal agreement likely to be voted through Parliament, business will have until 31 December 2020 to prepare for Brexit. It is important that businesses take the opportunity to plan for Brexit in good time.

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