Alix Mackay discusses key issues on the agenda at The Scotsman’s Life Sciences Conference 2021

Picture: PopTika/ShutterstockPicture: PopTika/Shutterstock
Picture: PopTika/Shutterstock
Can we hold on to the enormous strides made in the life sciences field during the coronavirus pandemic? And will Covid-19 turn out to be the mother of long-lasting innovation?

These are the central questions which will be addressed at The Scotsman’s Life Sciences Conference 2021, the first real opportunity to take a detailed look back at what has been achieved since the world changed in early 2020 – and whether those changes can be meaningfully embedded.

The online event, on Thursday 2 December, examines how rapid and collaborative progress in areas such as data-sharing, digital healthcare and new technologies can be maintained and used in a similar way to tackle health challenges beyond Covid-19.

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Conference chair Alix Mackay, founder and director of the Life Sciences Marketing Academy, says: “The 2020 conference was –quite rightly – celebratory, as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been approved that very day, and we heard a real tour de force from Kate Bingham [then chair of the UK Vaccines Taskforce] on the incredible work that had gone into that approval.

Alix MackayAlix Mackay
Alix Mackay

“We were right in the midst of the rapid pandemic response, of exciting and enormous progress – living through an acceleration of science like nothing we have seen in our lifetime.

“The 2021 conference offers more of a chance to step back and say, ‘What have we achieved, where have we made amazing strides forward, and how do we retain the very best of everything that has happened?’”

Areas to be discussed will include real-time data sharing across industry, academics, government and regulators, and a new level of collaboration between these groups which created a dramatic new pace of therapeutic development.

Digital solutions to enable early diagnostics, new healthcare pathways and the delivery of ongoing healthcare outside hospital environments will also be discussed, along with how advanced manufacturing capabilities were rapidly connected to create agile supply chains.

“We are at an absolutely critical time,” says Mackay. “It would be really easy to fall back, but what we really need to do is embed the positive Covid experiences for the future benefit of healthcare, our economy and society. That is the really big challenge.”

The keynote speaker addressing that central issue is Steve Bagshaw, an industry adviser to the UK Vaccines Taskforce and a life sciences veteran of 35 years, including six years as chief executive of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies.

Bagshaw is also a non-executive director of CPI, which brings together academia, businesses, government and investors to translate new ideas and research into the marketplace.

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The event will also feature a “fireside chat” with Dave Tudor, managing director of the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (one of the CPI’s key partnerships). Tudor is stepping down as co-chair of the Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group and will be succeeded in early 2022.

Mackay says: “Dave Tudor has been a great leader of the life sciences sector during a period of fundamental change. I’m really looking forward to reflecting on the last five years with him, and on where we go next in the context of everything that has happened during the pandemic.”

The remainder of the conference will be panel sessions featuring speakers from industry, academia and the healthcare system to ensure a wide range of perspectives.

Mackay says the shape of the conference is down to powerful messages from the 2020 event which she was determined to explore this year. “The impact of data and how it was shared much more quickly and effectively really struck me in 2020,” she says. “There was a real generosity in sharing data.

“A year on, I want to know if that collaboration, that generosity, and that pace and scale of data sharing at a time of urgent need has been maintained, and channelled effectively. We have high-quality health data stretching back many years in Scotland and we have talked about the value of that for years – but we have really started to unlock that?”

Mackay says she was also struck by the comments of Dr John Harden, deputy national clinical director for the Scottish Government at last year’s event.

She says: “He was very positive about the reaction to the pandemic and the improvement to patient pathways, but said that he had seen a reverting back to normal behaviours after the initial lockdown.

“I’m very interested to explore that, and the whole idea of how we are using digital technologies to look at that wider healthcare picture and start addressing very challenging waiting lists.”

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Against that backdrop, the promise of an extra £250 million for in-person GP appointments in England – and the future balance of digital and in-person appointments – will be another topic of discussion.

There will also be a focus on the issue of supply chain challenges, and how innovation and modern manufacturing can be deployed to shorten and speed up the supply chain – one of the issues that will be raised with Tudor, a long-term vocal proponent of faster, smarter medicines manufacturing.

“We had those early insights 18 months ago and it was right to celebrate how well the industry had responded,” says Mackay. “The time now feels right to be a bit more challenging, and to reflect a little more on those lessons learned and where we go next – to support the continued fight against Covid-19, but also to support the acceleration of scientific progress to benefit other areas of healthcare.”

For full details about the conference and to book your free place, go



Alix Mackay The Life Sciences Marketing Academy


Realising the Covid legacy with Q&A – Steve Bagshaw UK Government Vaccines Task Force

Given the achievements, acceleration of science and collaborative working throughout the pandemic, we’re at a critical time for the Industry. Do we go back to how things were before Covid-19? Or do we turn the experience into positives for the future of health, the economy and society? Find out about the UK Vaccines Taskforce’s Legacy work and what this means for the industry.


Dave Tudor Managing director, Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre at CPI

In his last Life Sciences Conference as the Industry Chair of the Industry Leadership Group for Life Sciences, Dave Tudor will share his thoughts, insight and reflections on Scotland’s response to Covid-19 and, indeed the sector’s performance over the last five years, and what this means for the future of the sector.


Ivan McKee MSP Minister for business, trade and tourism

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A Scottish Government perspective on the state of the sector in Scotland and its opportunity to serve healthcare challenges across the UK and beyond.


Alix Mackay The Life Sciences Marketing Academy

Jacqueline Barry Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult

Giles Hamilton ODx Innovations

Jann Gardner NHS Golden Jubilee


Join this deeper discussion into the factors that were critical in accelerating the science required to respond to Covid-19 and the implications on future healthcare challenges. Hear the full story from the BioIndustry Association and what the Covid-19 legacy could mean for cell and gene therapies, diagnostics, future healthcare challenges and the broader adoption of health innovation across Scotland.


Steph Wright The Data Lab

Fiona Kellas Maucher Jenkins

Emily Jefferson Dundee Schoolof Medicine

The potential for healthcare innovation through the use of health data is immense.

The real-time data between academia, industry and the regulatory authorities was unprecedented and instrumental in the speed at which vaccines were evaluated and approved for use.

As the first UK country to implement digital health records, Scotland has an abundance of high-quality health data ready to drive innovation.

This session aims to describe the relatively untapped resource that is on offer in Scotland and the mechanisms for accessing it.


Bjoern Schelter TauRx

David Lowe Consultant at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital

Andrew Davies ABHI

Euan Cameron COHESION Medical

Covid-19 forced new, remote patient pathways through the rapid adoption of digital tools. How can industry and the NHS work together to keep the momentum in a way that benefits the patient and the NHS?

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John Arthur CPI

Adeel Aslam Bouygues E&S UK

As molecules become more complex, so do the processes associated with scaling and manufacturing. What does the future look like, and how must companies in the supply chain adapt?


Miguel Bernabeu Deputy director of The Bayes Centre

Claire Gillespie Digital technologies sector skills manager, Skills Development Scotland

John Waller OracleBio

Nathan Barnett SULSA

No matter how fast the science accelerates and no matter how compelling the potential of digital and data-driven health innovation is, we need people to realise it.

Find out how Scotland is developing talent in the areas the world needs it most.


Alix Mackay

This article first appeared in The Scotsman’s Life Sciences 2021 supplement. A digital version can be found here.

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