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Giving EU Member States more freedom could increase early access to new drugs Posted 31/01/2014

A UK report urges giving European Union (EU) Member States greater freedoms to determine their own policies with respect to data protection and early access to medical innovations [1].

The report on the impact of the EU on the life sciences sector in the UK was published by the Fresh Start Project in January 2014. The report, which covered the two key markets of food and medicine, found that ‘the growing hostility of the EU to ‘biotech’, reflected in an increasing tide of ‘anti-biotech’ legislation, is having a damaging effect on the EU bioscience economy, and risks condemning the EU – and by extension the UK – to the global slow lane in biotechnology.’

The report admitted that the ‘hostilities’ were mainly directed towards the area of agricultural biotechnology. Nevertheless, the authors warned that there were growing concerns that ‘the EU is in danger of becoming an increasingly unattractive territory for the new technologies and disciplines such as stem cell and regenerative tissue science, genomics and genetic epidemiology and the use of clinical data in large scale ‘BigData’ studies to help drive Stratified and Personalised Medicine’.

The growing influence in European policymaking of Green lobbyists and political parties with an agenda that is anti-corporate and anti-capitalist and particularly hostile to biotech was highlighted as just one of the problems hindering innovation in the biotech industry in Europe.

The authors concluded that ‘whilst the EU has until recently been a largely progressive and enlightened force for progress through the appliance of science and technology in the Life Sciences, especially in biomedicine, the rising tide of hostility to corporate biotechnology’, ‘has started to have a serious impact on the EU and UK’s ability to secure investment’.

The report called for more effective influence from the UK within the EU to shape the EU’s response to new technologies. The UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) supported this view, commenting that ‘the UK life science ecosystem needs effective advocacy in Europe to counter the anti-biotechnology interests and protectionist attitudes found in parts of the EU, especially if we are to develop world class businesses of the future in areas like cell therapies. This is only possible from within the EU.’

The report recommended that a fundamental review be carried out in order to reform the way that the EU’s policies are affecting the European and UK ‘Bio Economy’ sector. In order to protect emerging sectors like ‘Functional Foods’ and ‘Nutriceuticals’, where the EU’s hostility to the appliance of genetics in agricultural biotechnology is affecting research, it was recommended that the regulation of agricultural and food research be returned to Member States. This, say the authors, ‘would allow countries that support the appliance of science and innovation, like the UK, to exist happily alongside, but not be undermined by, those like France and Germany which are increasingly hostile to it.’

Reference

1.  GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. ‘Similar biologics’ approved and marketed in India [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2014 Jan 31]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/General/Similar-biologics-approved-and-marketed-in-India

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