We are focused on driving long term sustainable performance for all of our stakeholders
We are committed to conducting our business in a way that is both economically sound and socially and environmentally responsible and we must ensure that Syncona is governed by taking account of the interests of all stakeholders, including employees, patients and society as a whole.

Our six key stakeholders

We seek to understand our stakeholders’ views and ensure that their interests are appropriately considered in board discussions and decision making.

Key issues

Our portfolio companies work closely with patients as they develop transformational treatments for high unmet needs. Patients are interested in the success of development, their ability to access treatments, and that clinical research takes place in a safe and compliant manner.

How does Syncona engage with them?

At the point of founding a new business, we would expect to have carried out extensive research which may involve speaking to key patient advocates for relevant diseases.

Once our businesses are formed, engagement is then typically led by the business itself, which also has responsibility for conducting clinical research to a high standard. Syncona sets expectations for our portfolio companies around access to medicines and conduct of research, as part of our Responsible Investment Policy. The Syncona team monitors the activities of the portfolio companies as part of their wider investment monitoring.

Impact on Board activities

The Board takes into account the purpose of the business, being a focus on investing to extend and enhance human life, in all of its decision-making.

The Board adopted the Sustainability Policy and Responsible Investment Policy this year, which reflect patient interests in a number of areas.

Any relevant and major issues arising from portfolio companies are reported to them Board as appropriate. The impact on patients was considered by the Board when deciding whether to approve the sale of Gyroscope. The Board believed that the transaction was likely to improve the speed and extent to which patients would be able to access the Gyroscope therapy, given Novartis’ wider ophthalmology platform.

Key issues

Shareholders want to know that we are running a long-term, sustainable business that seeks to deliver strong risk adjusted returns (both in absolute terms and relative to other opportunities available to them). The business model is capital intensive and so maintaining alignment with shareholders and access to capital is key for us.

How does Syncona engage with them?

The Chair seeks to engage with key shareholders and investor groups each year.

The Syncona team meets with key shareholders after the annual and interim results, typically reaching shareholders holding more than 80% of shares. The team also engages on an ongoing basis with existing and potential shareholders.

Impact on Board activities

Feedback from shareholders is reported at each Board meeting and considered by the Board as part of strategy and other discussions. This is a key determination for measuring the strength of our relationships with our shareholders, alongside our annual review of how our shareholders voted at our AGM.

The Board also discusses the effectiveness of shareholder engagement and shareholder perspective. This was a key aspect for discussion at the Board’s Strategy Day in September and in the November meeting, alongside the Group’s corporate advisers.

Key issues?

Our business is driven by a small investment team. Ensuring the team is recruited, retained and fully engaged with the Company’s strategy is key to our success and a key risk for us. The team seeks a working environment providing a high-quality culture, strong opportunities for development and aligned remuneration. In addition, each individual team member’s purpose must align with the wider purpose of the business, to deliver positive benefits to society and run in a long-term sustainable manner.

How does Syncona engage with them?

Managing the team is a core part of the Syncona executive team’s role.

The small size of the team also allows a direct connection between the Board and the Syncona team. The Board has designated a Non Executive Director for engagement with the team, Gian Piero Reverberi, who provides a direct contact point between the Board and the wider team, although the ability to have wider engagements has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board also joins the Syncona team for its quarterly review meetings, and (outside of the COVID-19 pandemic) for informal lunches.

Impact on Board activities

The Board has regular discussions regarding the Syncona team, including discussions on culture and values. This year, key Board agenda items have included team development at the Strategy Day and in the November and March meetings, a wider culture discussion in the March meeting and quarterly discussions on recruitment activities and updates on senior hires and leavers.

Discussions on the Syncona team also feed into the Board’s review of Syncona’s budget. Our risk process, which is approved by the Audit Committee, recognises the Syncona team as one of the key risks of the business. The Remuneration Committee considers the remuneration of the CEO and the overall framework and incentivisation of the Syncona team and approves awards under the long-term incentive scheme.

Key issues

Our strategy is executed through our portfolio companies, and we aim to ensure they act in line with our expectations as a responsible investor. In turn, our portfolio companies rely on our support for them, both financial and through our knowledge and networks.

How does Syncona engage with them?

Support and oversight of portfolio companies is a core part of the Syncona team’s role. There is generally a very close relationship with one or more Syncona team members in regular contact with the portfolio company’s senior team to support their business and clinical strategies and drive long-term value and taking board seats to promote high quality governance and oversight. There are extensive discussions on each portfolio company at quarterly board review meetings, attended by the Syncona team and the Board.

Syncona sets expectations for our portfolio companies as part of our Responsible Investment Policy and the Board receives sustainability information half-yearly on portfolio companies.

Impact on Board activities

The Syncona team provides extensive reporting on portfolio companies to the Board at each meeting, as a key element of the Board’s oversight and assurance role. Reporting is centred around how the portfolio company is delivering against its business plan and our sustainability expectations for our portfolio companies.

The Board also periodically meets directly with portfolio companies, or attends presentations, to understand their businesses more fully and (particularly) how the Syncona team interacts with them. The impact of the proposed sale of Gyroscope on the company itself was considered by the Board as part of the decision on the sale.

Key issues

Charitable giving has been part of the Syncona story since 2012, when BACIT Limited (now Syncona) was established with a commitment to donate a percentage of its NAV to charity each year. The charities benefit from long term and sustainable donations, and the potential for growth as the Syncona NAV grows

How does Syncona engage with them?

Syncona’s donations are principally through the Syncona Foundation, which is independent of Syncona but closely aligned with its aim of transforming the lives of patients. The Foundation in turn supports and maintains relationships with a range of charities. A member of the Syncona team attends trustee meetings as an observer.

Impact on Board activities

The Foundation’s trustees present annually to the Board on the impact of the donations. In addition, the Board are invited to attend charity presentations each quarter, to gain a fuller understanding of the impact that Syncona’s support has had.

Key issues

The development of, and access to, innovative new treatments is key to wider society and maintaining our licence to operate is vital in order to continue to develop new treatments.

Our businesses and portfolio companies must be run in a safe and compliant manner, with us acting as a responsible investor, in order to meet wider societal expectations around sustainability, business conduct and our impact on the community and the environment.

How does Syncona engage with them?

We aim to provide information about our wider impacts to the public and other stakeholders through our website and other public communications.

We published our inaugural Sustainability Report last year and we intend to do this each year. This sets out more details of our approach on sustainability issues.

When the opportunity arises, we seek to engage with the government on key issues affecting wider society and our stakeholders generally. This year, for example, we engaged with the Life Science Scale-Up Task Force which has been created to further the government’s Life Sciences Sector Vision.

Impact on Board activities

The Board takes into account the purpose of the business, being a focus on investing to extend and enhance human life, in all of its decision-making. The Board adopted policies around sustainability and responsible investment during the year.

The Board has decided to voluntarily disclose against the TCFD recommendations to align with wider society’s expectations.

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