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Aiming for a #HealthyEU – Countdown to European Elections – 4 weeks to go – Building a Thriving Innovative Life Sciences Sector

Aiming for a #HealthyEU – Countdown to European Elections – 4 weeks to go – Building a Thriving Innovative Life Sciences Sector

EFPIA’s Director Science Policy, Magda Chlebus, writes on the need to for a more coherent approach to support funding and incentives that will foster an innovative life sciences sector – a must for a #HealthyEU.

As EFPIA’s Director Science Policy, I frequently write on the importance of new approaches to innovation – from the need to explore new regulatory pathways, to the utility of collaborative research and public-private partnerships like the Innovative Medicines Initiative. In general, the EU needs to be more flexible in creating an environment that supports innovative research & development – we need to take steps to make the EU a hub that is fit for biomedical innovation.

EFPIA recently added its voice to support a statement calling on the European Commission and Parliament to maintain provisions in the current framework for funding of stem cells in Horizon 2020. Currently, Horizon 2020 allows groundbreaking research using all forms of stem cells, provided fundamental ethical principles are met and research is conducted in countries and establishments which accept it. This has come into question due to the One of Us Citizen’s Initiative, which requested the prohibition of EU financing of activities involving the destruction of human embryos – particularly in areas of research, development, cooperation and public health.

The Treaty of Lisbon provides the possibility for one million EU citizens to request a legislative proposal from the European Commission and to present their case in a public hearing organized by the European Parliament. Having achieved this, the One of Us initiative led to a public hearing in the European Parliament on 10 April.  While this democratic liberty is itself worth applauding, the threat that the One of Us campaign poses to stem cells research in the EU needs to be questioned. Stem cell research offers great promise for a variety of area of unmet medical needs, from Parkinson’s Disease to Type II Diabetes. Limiting this research in the EU does not and will not help patients.

Looking at the big picture, we further need to consider how limiting such research initiatives threaten the EU’s status as a hub for scientific innovation and medicines development. Creating a thriving innovative life sciences sector means supporting innovative research in a variety of ways.

Europe has ambitious healthcare research plans (both in terms of investments and outcomes) and it is important that EU’s science policy, in particular related to enabling tools and technologies like stem cells, nanotechs, animal studies, or protection of personal data, does not contradict these ambitions. While safeguards are necessary (and Horizon 2020 put clear safeguards in place), removing funding opportunities or EU support would simply move these activities elsewhere, with as a result loss of know how, delayed access of patients in Europe, etc. If not careful, Europe can only lose out. Citizen’s initiatives are a great tool to signal concerns and indicate where more dialogue and public debate is necessary – but they shouldn’t be undermined by rash action, and opening a platform for discussion does not necessarily mean that changes in rules are needed. To fulfill its ambitions, science policy needs to be consistent with industrial, research, and health policies – which, taken together, underscore Europe’s general health and growth objectives.

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EFPIA Science Policy Director

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