Business & Policies Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

The Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe


by Giuliana Miglierini The roadmap to support the implementation of the new vision of the European Research Area (ERA) made a concrete step forward on 16 July 2021, with the adoption by the European Commission of the proposal for a Read more

The opportunity for repurposing of oncology medicines


by Giuliana Miglierini Rare cancers, which account for approx. 22% of new cases in Europe, represent an area of low business interest for the pharmaceutical industry, due to the limited number of patients compared to the very high costs to Read more

A golden era for UK’s life sciences and a new Code of practice for its pharmaceutical industry


by Giuliana Miglierini Less than a year has gone since the Brexit, and the UK innovation landscape is experiencing a new, vivid era of expansion under the stimulus of a strong demand from global investors. According to recent data of Read more

The Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Giuliana Miglierini

The roadmap to support the implementation of the new vision of the European Research Area (ERA) made a concrete step forward on 16 July 2021, with the adoption by the European Commission of the proposal for a Council Recommendation on “A Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe”. The chosen form of a Recommendation supports the final adoption of the Pact in the form of a single non-binding initiative.
The Commission’s proposal was drafted taking into consideration the results from the public consultation ran between 15 April and 13 May 2021, the views generated within the ERA Forum for Transition (set up as an informal Commission expert group), and the out-comings of workshops involving selected stakeholders.
“The pandemic has shown us the importance of uniting research and innovation efforts that swiftly bring results to the market. It has shown us the importance of investment in jointly agreed strategic priorities between Member states and the EU. The Pact for Research and Innovation we propose today, will facilitate better collaboration, and join our efforts to tackle research and innovation objectives that matter the most for Europe. And it will allow all of us to learn from each other”, said Margrethe Vestager, EU Commission’s Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age.
According to Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, “The objective of the Pact is to foster the future dialogue process with key actors putting a clear emphasis on sharing best practices and facilitating the collaboration of Member States to invest in and coordinate on common research and innovation objectives”.

The main features of the document
The goal of the Commission is to update the approach used to manage the European Research Area to the most recent models of R&I and financing of scientific research. The new model for ERA was already described in the “Communication on A New ERA for Research and Innovation” (COM(2020) 628 final) adopted on 30 September 2020.
Integration of national policies instead of a simple collaboration is one of the main points to achieve sharing of key principles and values and to guide joint actions in priority areas. These values and principles are now better detailed in the new Pact for Research and Innovation (R&I), which shall represent the basis for national authorities to reform their internal R&I frameworks in the direction of an improved harmonisation between different member states.
Coordination of efforts at the central and national level should benefit from a Union-level coordination and support mechanism, a common ERA policy agenda of jointly agreed ERA actions to be implemented, a dedicated ERA policy online platform for reporting, and a ERA score- board to monitor progress towards common objectives. Regular bilateral and multilateral policy dialogues between member states and the Commission is expected to favour the sharing of best practices and mutual learning exercises.

The inspiring values
Three different dimensions characterise the declination of the principles and values called to inspire future R&I activities. The “upholding values” include ethics and integrity of research and innovation, freedom of scientific research, gender equality and equal opportunities.
“Working better” values target the free circulation of researchers, excellence and value creation as a tool to support European excellence in science generation, together with early sharing of scientific knowledge through open science practices, attractive and merit-based careers, enhanced framework conditions for mobility and exchanges between academia and industry, and open access to research infrastructures, technology infrastructures and their services. The common goal of all these actions refers to the achievement of the highest quality of R&I activities, to be supported by new models of selection and funding; re-use of previous results should be also pursued during research management activities.
The “working together” dimension is based on the key principles of coordination, coherence, and commitment. Member states are called to coordinate their R&I policies and programmes in areas of common interest and to direct research and innovation investments and reforms to- wards achieving the ERA and speed up the green and digital transition. Global outreach should base on collaboration with partners from third countries and regions, while inclusiveness should support the exploitation of ERA’s full potential to compete at the global level. Furthermore, societal responsibility should aim to increase public trust in science and innovation.

Synergies of action
The Pact for R&I is expected to act in synergy with many other pieces of European legislation to achieve its goals. Challenge-based ERA actions should support the increased integration of the Commission and member states, including their regions, cities, and municipalities. The operative tools may be represented for example by collaborative projects to be run as a part of Horizon Europe Missions, European partnerships including EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (EIT KICs), joint programming initiatives or multilateral alliance. Inspiration can be obtained also from existing coordination initiatives, such as the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) or the ERAvsCorona initiative.
Integration with the EU Skills Agenda is also important to ensure the alignment of R&I with higher education, and synergies are expected between ERA and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Not less important are possible synergies with the EU’s Industrial Strategy, for example in the field of technology infrastructures, industrial Alliances, and common industrial technology roadmaps. A more active citizen and societal engagement in R&I is another target of the Pact.
At the financial level, the EU Commission looks at improved synergies between EU’s, national and regional funding programmes, with attention to favour the excellence-based integration of research-performing organisations from countries with lower R&I performance into EU’s scientific networks and innovation ecosystems.
The proposal adopted by the Commission provides insights on the expected level of investments in R&D: the total expenditure on research and development should reach the 3% target of EU GDP by 2030, with a total public effort on R&D up to 1.25% of EU GDP. The share of national public R&D expenditure committed to joint programmes, research infrastructures and European Partnerships should also reach 5% of national public R&D funding by the same year.
Voluntary targets for investments
A possible weak point in the vision of the Commission for the future of ERA may be represented by the voluntary adhesion member states are called to with respect to the expected level of expenditure on R&I activities. According to Science Business, the 3% target was achieved in 2019 only by Germany, Sweden, and Austria, while the EU average (2.2%) is below that of US, Japan, and Korea.
Critics to the current EU’s “boom and bust” approach to basic research funding came by the outgoing president of the European Research Council (ERC), Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, during a meeting of EU science ministers in Slovenia in July (see Science Business).
According to Bourguignon, basic R&D should be not necessarily targeted towards topics which represents the priority of action of the EU Commission, such as the green and digital agenda. Sufficient funding for bottom-up research should be always available in order to support curiosity-driven research.


A golden era for UK’s life sciences and a new Code of practice for its pharmaceutical industry

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Giuliana Miglierini

Less than a year has gone since the Brexit, and the UK innovation landscape is experiencing a new, vivid era of expansion under the stimulus of a strong demand from global investors. According to recent data of the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and Clarivate, the second quarter of 2021 (March – May) saw £1.56 billion investments, a record value for a quarter since the trade association began recording this data.

A record year for investments
The first semester has registered a total of £2.39 bln investments, almost the same amount raised in the entire 2020 (£2.81 bln). “The scale of these financings suggests 2021 will be another record year of investment into UK biotech companies. We continue to see deals being driven predominantly by investors from outside of the UK. Our hope is that the Government’s impending Life Science Sector Vision will be a platform for the UK’s financial institutions to add further fuel to take this sector into a golden age.”, said Dr Martin Turner, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the BIA.
More in detail, UK biotech and life science companies raised £1,07 billion in venture capital; thirteen deals overcame £20 million, and four of them even £100 mln. The 60% of the total biotech venture capital invested in Europe is represented by UK companies; furthermore, £431 million was raised through three NASDAQ IPOs and £58 mln in follow-on public financings. “These figures show that our life sciences sector is booming, demonstrating the confidence that global investors have in the UK. The extraordinary innovation underway in the sector will not only increase our resilience against future healthcare challenges, but will boost the economy, create highly skilled jobs across the country, and enhance our status as a science superpower”, said Life Sciences Minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Biotech shares on the London Stock Exchange also continued to out-perform the wider market in the first half of 2021, according to the report prepared by Radnor Capital Partners on behalf of the BIA.

A new Vision of the life sciences sector
The UK government published it’s new Life Science Vision on 7 July, a 10-year strategy for the sector which builds on the success of the previous 2017 Life Sciences Industrial Strategy.
The same approach used to fight the Covid-19 pandemic will be used as a blueprint to tackle some persisting health issues such as dementia and cancer, for a total of seven critical missions. The others include early diagnosis and treatments, comprehensive of immune therapies and cancer vaccines, vaccine discovery, treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases and its major risk factors (i.e. obesity), reducing mortality and morbidity from respiratory disease, addressing the underlying biology of ageing, increasing the understanding of mental health conditions and redefining tools to fight them.
The new strategy also includes planned investments for a total of £1 billion, to be dispensed under the Life Sciences Investment Programme (LSIP). The programme is expected to boost further private sector investment, and the creation of a world leading UK life sciences venture capital ecosystem. The investments will be delivered through British Patient Capital (BPC), part of the government-owned British Business Bank, which will allocate the £200 million to specialist funds. Some other £800 mln will result from the collaboration between BPC and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company, one of the world’s leading sovereign investors. The LSIP will have access to a scientific advisory panel composed of leading industry figures, chaired by Professor Sir John Bell and in charged to share insight on key scientific trends.
“We are indebted to the ingenuity of UK life sciences and its pioneers, with the discovery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the seamless collaboration between our scientists, industry, regulators and NHS saving millions of lives during the pandemic. We must make sure this is the norm and use this new way of working to search for life-changing breakthroughs against diseases such as cancer, dementia and obesity, as we have done with Covid”, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Crucially, we’re going to build a pro-enterprise environment where our life sciences firms can access the finance to grow, are incentivised to onshore manufacturing, and can commercialise breakthrough products right here in the UK – rather than elsewhere – as we cement the UK’s position as a science superpower”, added Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
Central to the new Vision is the emulation of the approach used by the UK Vaccines Taskforce to fully exploit the private sector expertise while removing unnecessary bureaucracy. New regulatory freedoms and opportunities are expected for the UK life science business sector as a result of the country’s new position outside the EU. The UK’s regulatory agency MHRA is expected to act as an independent, sovereign regulator with great agility and with a focus on getting vaccines, drugs, and technologies to patients as safely and quickly as possible.
“The BIA’s focus will be to increase the expert pool of UK based capital needed for innovative UK life science firms to grow to scale. This will enable UK investors and pension savers, to secure the economic benefit from this burgeoning golden age for UK life sciences while at the same time enabling NHS patients to secure the health benefit of global biotech innovation”, said BIA’s Chief Executive and former member of the Vaccine Taskforce Steve Bates.

A new Code of Practice for the pharmaceutical industry
The renewal of the UK’s landscape in life sciences also pass through the new Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry, which has become operative since 1st July 2021 without transition period, with the exception of companies wishing to continue with ongoing Medical and Educational Goods and Services where the transition period will close on 31 December 2021.
The Code published by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) is operated under the supervision of the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), established by ABPI in 1993 as an independent organism. The previous version of the code was released in 2019.
The Code provides indication on the acceptable practices for the promotion of prescription medicines to both health professionals and other relevant decision makers. Requirements for interactions with health professionals and standards for the provision of information about prescription medicines to the public and patients (including patient organisations) are also included.
There are four principles inspiring the document, first among which the benefit and safety of patients. Integrity and commitment towards responsible, professional, ethics and transparent relationships, transparency and respect will guide the future activities of the UK pharmaceutical industry in the promotion of medicines.
Even if the Code refers only to activities carried out by the industry, its indications should also inspire individuals and organisations in their interactions with the pharmaceutical environment.
Training of personnel and robust operating procedures to review all materials and validate their compliance to the rules highlighted by the Code and other legal requirements are other principles inspiring the document. The Code incorporates some other references important in the field of the promotion of pharmaceutical products, among which those contained in the Codes of Practice of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations’ (IFPMA), the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations’ (EFPIA), the WHO’s Ethical Criteria for Medicinal Drug Promotion, the EU’s Directive 2001/83/EC and 2004/27/EC on human medicinal products, and the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 No. 1916.


The new vision for the European research landscape

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Giuliana Miglierini

The new European framework for research and innovation, Horizon Europe (HE, 2021-2027), is now operative. A great deal of work has been accomplished in the recent months in order to define the possibility for third countries to participate to the new projects that will be activated. The List of Participating Countries in Horizon Europe was published by the European Commission at mid-June; it includes eighteen third countries associated to the framework programme, according to the provisions set forth by Regulation 2021/6951.

Eighteen third countries associated to Horizon Europe
The list also includes the United Kingdom, which became a third country after the Brexit, but with the exception of its participation to the EIC Fund (which is part of the EIC Accelerator that provides investment through equity or other repayable form).
The status of associated country makes its legal entities entitled to participate to HE’s projects under equivalent conditions as legal entities from the EU member states, unless specific limitations or conditions are specified in the work programme and/or call/topic text. All the sixteen non-EU countries associated to Horizon 2020 have expressed interest to continue the collaboration with the EU’s researchers. Transitional arrangements are in place to govern their participation to HE while waiting for the definitive closure of the negotiations.
Israel, Iceland and Norway are other components of this list, together with the majority of East European countries, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia. Among not associated countries, Liechtenstein openly expressed its intention not to become an associated country. Further negotiations can lead to the expansion of the list.
Non-associated countries and international organisations can participate to most Horizon Europe’s calls, unless specific limitations or conditions apply; particularly interesting from this point of view are topics of research specifically directed to improve international cooperation.
Participants from not associated countries are not automatically eligible for funding, thus have to participate to the research activities at their own cost. Some exceptional circumstances allow them to access funding, i.e. in the case of outstanding competence/expertise, or if access to particular research infrastructures, data or geographical environment is needed. Automatic funding is available to a selected list of low- to middle-income countries from Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania.

The case of Switzerland
Switzerland is currently excluded from the pool of associated countries to Horizon Europe.
This is the result of the decision of the Swiss Federal Council occurred at the end of May to stop the seven years-long negotiations with the EU Commission (see more on Science Business).
Significantly, scientific research and the status of associated country within HE was not part of this negotiation, that was focused instead on bilateral agreements for the free movement of persons and mutual recognition of industry standards, agricultural products, air transport and land transport, as reported by Science Business.
The exclusion of Switzerland immediately caused a vivid debate among European scientists, worried for the possible consequences of the inability of their Swiss colleagues to take part to HE’s projects. An Open Letter signed by many different European Science,Technology & Innovation (STI) Councils and Advisory Bodies and other Science organisations (among which Science Europe and Cesaer) urges for the full association of Switzerland with Horizon Europe.
The signatories of this letter would like to underline the importance of continuing the long established and mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and Switzerland in the domain of research and innovation”, states the letter. Many are the past contributions from the Helvetic country to the success of European research, starting with the hosting of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) up to the foundation of the European Space Agency. “Downgrading Switzerland to a third country would severely limit its expertise being brought into Horizon Europe projects tackling today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges. We are convinced that this would lead to a lose-lose situation, putting successful cooperation in strategic areas at risk and ultimately weaken the ERA as a whole”, write the scientific organisations.

The situation with respect to China, the US and Canada
The “open strategic autonomy” is the new paradigm of action the von der Leyen Commission shall apply also in the field of research and innovation. According to Science Business, this approach will represent the basis for the negotiations with countries like China, that might require a higher level of attention with respect to the need of providing adequate protection for the intellectual property developed by European scientists.
Preliminary discussions to solve legal issues that prevented the participation of US universities to EU research projects in the past years are also undergoing. In the meantime, the high level EUUS Trade and Technology Council (TTC) was launched by US president Joe Biden and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen during the US-EU Summit in Brussels on June 15, 2021.
The TTC will meet periodically at the political level to coordinate approaches to key global trade, economic, and technology issues and to deepen transatlantic trade and economic relations commitment to strengthen our technological and industrial leadership and expand bilateral trade and investment. It also gives us tools to address threats such as unfair competition and the misuse of new technologies. This is a top priority for the EU, and we warmly welcome the fact that it is now also at the top of the transatlantic trade agenda”, said Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Executive Vice-President and EU Trade Commissioner.
The TTC will operate through several working groups, responsible to translate the political decisions into deliverables, coordinate the technical work and report to the political level. Among the first topics for its action is cooperation in the field of technology standards and secure supply chains.
Preliminary negotiations took place also with Canada in the course of the European Union-Canada summit, in June (See more here). Specific points in the field of health mentioned in the final joint statement include the launch of a new Canada-EU dialogue on health under the Strategic Partnership Agreement to improve health cooperation in multilateral contexts, and an enhanced bilateral cooperation under Horizon Europe. This last action should see some exploratory discussions towards a possible association of Canada to the framework programme, particularly with respect to the green and digital transitions and AI and quantum cooperation.

A new Strategy for Science Europe
Science Europe, the organisation representing major national research performing organisations (RPOs) and research funding organisations (RFOs) in Europe, has published its new Strategy 2021-2026 and the related Action Plan.
The central vision of the news Strategy is that “for a European Research Area with optimal conditions, to support robust education, research and innovation systems”. This goal will be pursued by defining the long-term perspectives for European research and selecting the best-practice approaches. Scientific knowledge as a common good, research as a public service, freedom of scientific inquiry, responsibility of all actors in ensuring the highest possible standards of quality, ethics, integrity, inclusivity, and openness in the conduct and management of research are just some of the values that have inspired the Strategy.
Three priorities will guide members organisations, starting from the role RPOs and RFOs can play in shaping future developments of the European research policy. Open science will continue to represent the paradigm of choice in order to ensure sustainability of the R&I system. A possible evolution of the current framework may result in the proposed European Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation. Science Europe will support its members in promoting investment in R&I and in closing the performance divide between different national R&I systems in Europe. Complementarities shall constitute the basis of bilateral and multilateral collaboration between member organisations, as well as of cross-border collaborations at a global level.
The diffusion of a solid, quality-driven research culture is a fundamental requirement for its success. Science Europe plans to play a central role with other European institutions in jointly define and implement the positive culture shift needed to create sustainable research ecosystems. This goal will take advantage of the different approaches and values that are used by researchers from different EU countries, taking also into consideration the global challenges and societal expectations and the degree of self-organisation of the European R&I system. Incentives and rewards are foreseen as a way to improve the sustainable development of research systems, together with a better coherence between policy areas.
According to Science Europe, the European research framework is called to an effort to develop new, long-term solutions for the current challenges that affects society. Interdependencies between curiosity-driven and challenge-oriented approaches should be addressed in order to boost this target, together with the support to Open Science models. A stronger engagement between researchers, policy makers and society, and improved support to trans-disciplinary research are key objectives set forth by Science Europe’s Strategy.

A Strategic Agenda from five industrial associations
From the industrial point of view, the activation of the new Horizon Europe research framework will correspond to the end of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), that characterised the public-private partnerships for research in the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors in the past decade.
A new framework is expected to take its place, the proposed Innovative Health Initiative (IHI), which should be activated in the context of Horizon Europe. While the European Commission is still working to define the legislation governing the new partnerships, a Strategic Agenda for Research & Innovation in Healthcare has been released by five European industry associations representing the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical technologies industries (COCIR, EFPIA, MedTech Europe, EuropaBio and Vaccines Europe).The Agenda has been jointly drafted by the prospective IHI Joint Undertaking member industry associations and the European Commission services (based on the results of a public consultation ran in 2019) and it should represent the basis for the final, formal adoption of the new IHI framework after the partnership legislation has been adopted and the partnership is operational. A new tool is planned within Horizon Europe to run the IHI, the institutionalised Public-Private Partnerships, which are expected to help de-risking the pre-competitive public-private collaboration.
The vision illustrated by the document reflects the new models of cross-sectorial integration of technologies, know-how, products, services and workflows in order to build true new peoplecentred healthcare systems. The development of new solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases should aim to sustain the good health of EU citizens, and decrease the disease burden for patients, care givers and healthcare professionals.
The new European ecosystem for R&I should aim, according to the document, to facilitate translation of scientific knowledge into innovation, so to respond to the strategic unmet public health needs in a cost-effective way.
Five specific objectives to be achieved by 2030 are envisaged by the Strategy, from a better understanding of the determinants of health and priority disease areas to the integration of fragmented health R&I efforts, up to the development of tools, data, platforms, technologies and processes for improved prediction, prevention, interception, diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases. Projects will be also targeted to demonstrate the feasibility of peoplecentred, integrated healthcare solutions. Digitalisation and data exchange will be central activities to achieve this goal, and will also support the development of new and improved methodologies and models for the comprehensive assessment of the added value of integrated healthcare innovations.
Examples of the activities that may be part of the new IHI projects are the discovery, development and testing of new molecules, and the study of their mechanisms of action; the development and testing of new processes and technologies, and new methodologies for the assessment of safety, health outcomes or for health-economic evaluation. Development may be run up to the pre-standardisation activities or pilots/proofs of feasibility scale, including in-silico trials. Contributions to the development of regulatory science are also an expected outcome. The pharmaceutical and medical technology sectors will be engaged in multi-sectorial activities, moving from product- and pathology-centric goals to patient-centric development. Priorities of research shall be set forth by early engagement with public sector stakeholders, through the establishment of a new Innovation Panel.