Sunday, 6 November 2016

Brexit: and the future of the UK's life-sciences sector

Besides having many staff from the University of Exeter and the Met Office living in the area, Sidmouth has several deep connections with science and technology:
Futures Forum: Norman Lockyer and 'Nature'... and Climate Change

The future for science and technology in Devon and the UK has been pretty uncertain after the Brexit vote:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and universities focussing on the post-exit world
Futures Forum: Brexit: and threatening the UK's research centres ... ... ... ... or: the 'catalyst' universities need to improve?
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Nobel laureates
Futures Forum: Brexit: and biotechnology
Futures Forum: Brexit: and ensuring impartial funding for scientific research

The press has been considering these fears:
Brexit Is Jeopardizing Britain's Intellectual Legacy - The Atlantic
Life after Brexit | The Economist

As has ConservativeHome:
Luke Tryl: Flourishing life sciences are vital for our prosperity. And they would be damaged by a Hard Brexit. | Conservative Home

And the Telegraph:

UK could miss out on EU science grants post-Brexit

Julia Bradshaw 5 NOVEMBER 2016 • 2 Comments
Scientists start work at the new Francis Crick institute in London

Britain’s life-sciences sector should not expect the European Union to continue to allow access to EU research funding and participation in scientific programmes post-Brexit, industry experts have cautioned.

The UK last year received €8.8bn (£7.81bn) in R&D funding from the EU, and participates in the Horizon 2020 programme, which distributes billions of euros in scientific research grants across the single market.

Norway, Turkey and Israel – non-EU countries – all participate in Horizon 2020 and benefit from it. While it’s not impossible for the UK to do the same post-Brexit, this cannot be assumed, particularly given the acrimonious feelings among other member states towards Britain, delegates at a conference hosted by QuintilesIMS were told.

“We should not expect that the EU will just hand it to us on a plate during negotiations,” said Luke Tryl, author of a report from QuintilesIMS that looks at Brexit and life sciences.

Switzerland, for example, was knocked out of Horizon 2020 funding when it voted to restrict freedom of movement in 2014, he said. It only later managed to negotiate limited access.

Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the NHS Confederation and former health secretary, said that while the UK Government could plug any funding gap, this was “missing the point”. “We don’t just need the money, we need to be part of these European scientific programmes, otherwise that €8.8bn is money badly spent,” he said.

On regulation, experts said it would be vital for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which approves new drugs on behalf of all member states, to remain in Britain, or, at the very least, continue to work with the UK’s national regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

“There's no shortage of countries who want to be home to the new EMA, should it move, and if that happens many foreign pharmaceutical companies will move to where the new headquarters are,” said Sarah Rickwood, vice president for European Though Leadership for QuintilesIMS, a company that conducts clinical trials and advises pharmaceutical firms.

There are opportunities for Britain's life sciences sector, we just need to grasp them

“The Japanese have been clear that they will move their R&D to follow the EMA.”

The MHRA does 37pc of the work of the EMA, so it's a muscle the government should look to flex in its negotiations, said Leslie Galloway, chairman of the Ethical Medicines Industry Group.

“You do not become a world class regulator overnight so the MHRA is a jewel in our crown that we need to develop.”

Mr Dorrell, of the NHS Confederation, added: “The key point can’t be emphasised too strongly. Life sciences is not just a British industry it is a global endeavour. Fragmented life sciences doesn’t work. Seeking to develop our own national answer to regulation and migration is to undermine the British life sciences industry.”

On the issue of trade, Ms Rickwood said the EU spends more on new medications than many emerging markets combined. Over the next five years growth in these countries will decelerate.

Moreover, the treatments they are introducing are increasingly generic drugs, rather than the novel medications from which big pharma companies really make money, so “where the money is spent [paying for those drugs] matters”. “So what the life sciences industry needs is the US, Japan and Europe,” she said.

Dr Virgina Acha, executive director of research, medical and innovation for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), told the conference that the ABPI would like more detail on the Government’s industrial strategy. “We are the third-largest biotech cluster in the world, but many countries are hot on our heels. Other countries want to know what the UK is planning.”

UK could miss out on EU science grants post-Brexit

Although there are of course other voices:

Dr Julia Reid MEP expresses her optimism for life-sciences in a Post-Brexit Britain

Published Sep 23, 2016

UKIP MEP Dr Julia Reid, a research biochemist by profession, is delighted to hear that earlier this month, Europe’s largest biomedical laboratory, known as the Francis Crick Institute, opened in London.

The biomedical research institute aims to determine how certain illnesses develop, and then with this knowledge, scientists aim to prevent, diagnose and also treat conditions such as: cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections and diseases of the brain.

The Francis Crick institute, which boasts a total floor space of 93,000m2, has been made possible by the innovative partnership between the Medical Research Council (which is a UK government funding agency that invests in research on behalf of the tax payer), two charities and three universities based in London.

Dr Julia Reid MEP expresses her optimism for life-sciences in a Post-Brexit Britain - UKIP

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