Post-Brexit biotech optimism

C&I Issue 6, 2017

David Cameron sought to reassure biotech companies represented at the 2017 BIO Convention in San Diego about the business environment in the UK following Brexit. In a keynote discussion at the meeting in June, the former UK PM told industry leaders not to worry about retaining EU staff or accessing EU talent post-2019, but to focus instead on the nature of the trading relationship between the EU and UK.

As the world’s sixth largest economy, Cameron said the UK was in a strong position to negotiate a ‘fair outcome’ in any negotiations with the EU. Regarding future medicines regulations, he suggested that Britain could stay in the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – while recognising that may be difficult – and indicated the UK should try to form some type of regulatory equivalence deal with the EU in terms of drugs licensing. The EMA is currently headquartered in London, but probable alternative new locations are under negotiation.

Cameron told the audience that his own interests in medical research were influenced both by having a disabled father and a son, Ivan, born with a rare, incurable, genetic diseases. ‘When Ivan was born, I thought we knew a lot more than we did. I was naïve. We often put labels on things without understanding them,’ he said. It was partly this experience, he reflected, that led him to set up the 100,000 genomes project linking UK NHS medical records with individual genetics and disease progress.

Since stepping down as PM, Cameron said he is now focusing his interests on issues he cares most about. Earlier in 2017 he was appointed president of Alzheimer’s Research UK , which is concerned purely with promoting research into AD. Referring to the growing numbers of people affected, he urged: ‘Now is not the time for companies to pull back on Alzheimer’s research…Far less is spent on dementia than cancer.’

UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) CEO Steve Bates welcomed Cameron’s reassurances for the biotech sector, saying: ‘Cameron asked the sector to focus on getting the trading relationship between the UK and the EU right in the Brexit negotiations. This is exactly what the BIA is doing. Helpfully, he posited several biotech scenarios as possibilities – including some soft Brexit scenarios such as a sector specific deal for biotech and pharma.’

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