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

Steps forward towards the new framework for HTA


By Giuliana Miglierini The long-waited European regulation on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) was adopted by the Council of Europe on November 9, and it has now to pass through the final endorsement of the European Parliament as the last step Read more

Commission establishes portfolio of 10 most promising treatments for Covid-19


by Giuliana Miglierini The second phase in the development of new medicines to treat Covid-19 - a part of the EU Strategy on Covid-19 Therapeutics launched in May 2021 - has reached a cornerstone with the announcement made by the Read more

A new role for EMA and a pilot project for the repurposing of medicines


by Giuliana Miglierini A draft agreement was reached at the end of October between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to reinforce the mandate of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) with reference to crisis preparedness and Read more

Steps forward towards the new framework for HTA

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The long-waited European regulation on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) was adopted by the Council of Europe on November 9, and it has now to pass through the final endorsement of the European Parliament as the last step before publication in the EU Official Journal. The regulation will entry into force three years and twenty days after publication.

The first proposal of a new HTA regulation was made in January 2018 by the EU Commission; the final political agreement between the Council and the EU Parliament was reached in June 2021. The position of the Council of Europe on the draft regulation at first reading was also published.

The provisions of the new HTA regulation will apply to medicinal products, medical devices (for example pacemakers, dialysis equipment or infusion pumps) or medical and surgical procedures, as well as measures for disease prevention, diagnosis or treatment used in healthcare.

The adoption of this law is another demonstration of how EU countries, when acting together, can achieve very practical results for their citizens. This new law will benefit patients, producers of health technologies and our health systems.”, said Janez Poklukar, the Slovenian minister for health.

Cooperation and joint activities

Joint clinical assessments and joint scientific consultations are central concepts of the HTA regulation: a target that would require the active cooperation of all member states in order to efficiently identify emerging health technologies. Administrative procedures shall be greatly simplified and become more cost-efficient, as manufacturers of health technologies (especially small companies) should be required to submit once-only all data and documentation for a certain technology at the EU level. These will form the basis for national competent authorities to run all joint activities, including scientific advice and clinical assessment.

The added value of new health technologies compared to the existing ones will be a main driver to guide the assessment activities, so to take informed decisions on pricing or reimbursement.

Joint scientific consultations may also include the exchange of relevant information between national authorities and manufacturers on development plans for the technology under assessment, so to favour the availability of all the evidence required to meet regulatory expectations.

The new Heads of Agencies Group

While waiting for the formal adoption of the new HTA regulation by the EU Parliament, other activities are ongoing to set up the operative framework needed to guarantee the smooth activation of all planned collaborative efforts.

The newly formed Heads of Agencies Group (HAG) is an initiative aimed to support the implementation of common joint work approach on all HTA activities at the EU level, according to the new model of cooperation among national authorities established by the regulation.

The new HTA-focused collaborative network for high-level strategic exchange and discussion was launched on 29 September 2021 by the heads of 19 European HTA agencies, which elected Prof. Rui Santos Ivo (INFARMED, Portugal) as its Chair, and Prof. Dominique Le Guludec (HAS, France) and Dr. Trygve Ottersen (NIPH, Norway) as Vice-Chairs. The secretariat of the Group has been established at the Dutch Health Care Institute (ZIN).

All HAG’s activities will be based on a joint Memorandum of Understanding. The Group will work during the next three years to support national systems to be prepared for the entry into force of the HTA regulation, including the availability of the needed capacity. HAG will also support the joint technical and scientific work performed by HTA bodies across Europe, and it will advise policymakers and other relevant institutions – both at the EU and national level – on issues related to cooperation in HTA.

Current members of the group include the following national authorities involved in HTA activities: AEMPS (Spain), AIFA (Italy), AGENAS (Italy), AIHTA (Austria), INFARMED (Portugal), KCE (Belgium), NIPH (Norway), G-BA (Germany), HAS (France), HIQA (Ireland), IQWiG (Germany), FIMEA (Finland), NCPE (Ireland), REDETS (Spain), RER (Italy), RIZIV-INAMI (Belgium), NOMA (Norway), TLV (Sweden) and ZIN (The Netherlands).

The EUnetHTA 21 consortium

After the closing of its third Joint Action (2016-2020), which paved the way to the permanent HTA working structure for Europe (encompassing more than 80 HTA bodies), the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA) has published a HTA White Paper as the final document resuming lessons learned up to now that may prove relevant for the implementation of the next phase of the HTA joint cooperation.

This new phase in the life of the Network, that now goes under the name of EUnetHTA 21, is no more a Joint Action; a joint consortium has been created instead, led by the Dutch HTA body ZIN and including the following HTA agencies: AEMPS (Spain), AIFA (Italy), AIHTA (Austria), GBA (Germany), HAS (France), INFARMED (Portugal), IQWIG (Germany), KCE (Belgium), NCPE (Ireland), NIPN (Hungary), NOMA (Norway) and TLV (Sweden). The consortium will provide support to the future European HTA system to be established according to the upcoming regulation.

EUnetHTA 21 is funded by a two-years’ Service Contract for the Provision of Joint Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Work Supporting the Continuation of EU Cooperation on HTA, signed on 17 September 2021 by the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA).

The first Stakeholder Kick-Off online meeting of the consortium is scheduled on 3 December

2021; the discussion will focus on the illustration of the governance principles, the planned interactions with stakeholders in the form of public consultations and the presentation of deliverables planned for the next two years.

The first Open Call for consultation

EUnetHTA 21 has already launched its first Open Call , targeted to the pharmaceutical industry with reference to four different Joint Scientific Consultations (JSC, previously referred to as Early Dialogues). The Call is open until 7 December 2021; some other four slots for JSC are expected to be activated during the period of activities of EUnetHTA 21.

The medicinal products to access these four first slots will be selected on the basis of the results of the Open Call, within two weeks from its closure; the following Joint Scientific Consultations are expected to start in January 2022. According to EUnetHTA, the procedure to be used for JSC shall remain essentially unchanged, with just minor adjustments; an updated guidance document should be soon available.

JSCs are a pillar of the new HTA regulation, aimed to provide non-binding scientific advice to developers of new products, after completion of the feasibility or proof of concept studies and prior to the activation of pivotal clinical trials, in order to improve the quality and appropriateness of the data to be used for future HTA assessment. This type of evaluation will run in parallel to EMA’s scientific advice procedures.

Early exchange of relevant information between applicants and both regulatory (EMA) and HTA agencies represents the core of the process, so to optimise the integration of the different requirements to be included in the study design across multiple European member states. These might refer, for example, to the choice of comparators or relevant outcomes, to the quality of life and/or patient groups (both for pivotal trials and post-launch studies), as well as to the economic evidence generation plan.


A step forward towards the African Medicines Agency

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by Giuliana Miglierini

Cameroon has been the fifteenth African country to formally ratify on October 5th the Treaty for the establishment of the African Medicines Agency (AMA). The reaching of this target enables the implementation phase of the project, that should lead AMA to be operative in 2022. The Treaty is now going to come into force 30 days after the deposit of the last instrument of ratification and will lead to the activation of all conditions needed to run the Agency.

Twenty-six African countries (mainly Francophone) are supporting the initiative (on a total of 55); three countries still need to just formally inform the African Union (AU) of the ratification, while other eight are expected to ratify the already signed Treaty. Among important African countries that have not yet supported the creation of AMA are Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa.

A regulatory Agency to support the African growth

The Treaty was signed in 2019 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU; AMA will represent the central African regulatory body in charge of the supervision of medicines’ development, production and approval in adhering countries, a key milestone for the development in the Continent of a robust vision of the entire life cycle of medicinal products.

The African Medicines Agency will add to the already existing Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the specialised technical institution of the AU established in 2016 and launched in 2017 as a platform to share and exchange knowledge and lessons from public health interventions. The activities of AMA shall also contribute to the proper functioning of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the largest integrated trading area in the world which should represent the basis for the creation of an African Economic Community (expected to occur by 2028).

Africa should experience a rapid growth of the urbanising population, with total projections at 1.2 billion people. Substandard and counterfeited medicines still remain a relevant issue to be addressed by the newly born Agency, with estimates of over US$30 billion annual earnings (data WHO 2017). A main reference for AMA’s activities shall be also found in the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Africa (PMPA), endorsed by the Heads of State and Government at the summit in Accra in 2007 and aimed to support a robust framework for the creation of an African pharmaceutical industry.

The process to create the African Medicine Agency started in 2014, with the goal to prioritise investment for regulatory capacity development and find convergence and harmonisation of medical products regulation in countries adhering to the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), within the context of the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization (AMRH) initiative.

AMA will act as a specialised agency of the African Union – exactly as the European Medicines Agency is for the EU – with its own rules, membership and resources to enhance the capacity of member states and RECs to regulate medicinal products. Its activities shall help the coordination of on-going regulatory systems, provide regulatory guidance, and improve access to qualitative, safe and efficient medicinal products on the continent. The city that will host AMA will be selected upon examinations of the bid offers received by members of the Conference of the State Parties.

The Conference shall also act as the highest policy-making organ of the AMA, entitled to determine the composition, sessions, functions and terms of office of the AMA Governing Board. This last body will include five Heads of National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRAs) from each region, one Regional Economic Community (REC) representative, one representative of Regional Health Organization (RHOs), one representative of National Committees Responsible for bioethics on rotational basis and the Commissioner for Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development (HHS) at the African Union Commission (AUC). The Conference of the State Parties shall also appoint AMA’s Director General, upon recommendation of the Governing Board.

Open issues waiting for the action of AMA

The weakness and fragmentation of current legislative frameworks active in African countries, is leading to redundant and/or duplicate procedures, slow and inefficient medicine registration processes, and limited technical capacity. These critical issues were already been identified in 2009 by the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonisation initiative (which is part of the PMPA).

An article published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice discusses the actual status and the challenges and regulatory readiness be faced during the implementation of the African Medicines Agency.

The AU Model Law on Medical Products Regulation established by the African Union shall represent the reference for the alignment of national legislative frameworks, in order to proceed towards a better harmonisation of rules governing the pharmaceutical sector. Under the current status manufacturers submit the regulatory dossiers in each country, as no mutual recognition procedure is in place for the approval of medicinal products. This leads to a great duplication of efforts, with higher costs and time-consuming procedures.

The Sahrawi Republic is the only African country not to have a national regulatory authority or an administrative unit in charge of this type of functions; the great majority of countries (>90%), explains the article, have minimal to no capacity, and only 7% have moderately developed capacity, thus highlighting the importance for the new central Agency to provide support also in the form of training provided to national NMRAs. Ghana and Tanzania are the only countries to possess NMRAs operating at maturity level 3 (over a total of 4) of the WHO’s Global Benchmarking Tool (GBT). Fragmentation is also present in the type of medicines falling under the mandate of each NMRA, including veterinary drugs, traditional and herbal products, foods, cosmetics, food supplements, etc. Issues shall also to be addressed for their registration of innovative medicines, i.e. biosimilars, vaccines or advanced therapies.

Among recommended priorities for AMA is the assessment of the current status of implementation of the AU Model Law by AU member states, the examination of the enabling factors and challenges encountered in implementing the Model in each country, the analysis of factors impacting on the ratification of the Treaty, a comparative study to gain experience from the implementation of other continental initiatives, and an investigation of African NMRAs’ expectations, perceived contributions in/to AMA and perceived benefits for each country, and which may potentially derive from the new Agency.

A partnership for health innovation in Africa

The development of a framework to strengthen the African capacity for drug discovery and development – by scaling existing initiatives and identifying new development opportunities for young and mid-career scientists – is central to the new three-year partnership launched by the H3D-Foundation (H3D-F, established to reduce barriers for health innovation in African countries) and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).

The project will start from the results achieved up to now by the University of Cape Town Holistic Drug Discovery & Development (H3D) centre, the only integrated drug discovery and development platform in Africa. The new partnership with IFPMA shall contribute to expand this capacity.

Focusing on infections, an area highly relevant medical need in Africa, local research currently represents approx. 2% of the global effort on new infections. There are 250 research sites and 73 vaccine clinical trials active in Africa, but less than 10 universities provide vaccinology courses and only two local universities engage in vaccine-related pre-clinical studies.


First steps of the HERA Authority and comments from industrial and medical associations

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The new European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) has started its operative phase. Initially launched in February 2021, HERA has been modelled by the European Commission on the example of the US’s DARPA agency, and it will be in charge of anticipating threats and potential health crises.

The first three calls for tender to support HERA’s setup have been published on the Commission’s website and will remain open until 29 October 2021. They are targeted towards addressing different aspects of the management of Covid-19 therapeutics and antimicrobial resistance.

A total sum of €7 million from the EU4Health programme will fund these activities. An info session on the three calls was delivered on 14 October 2021 by European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) in collaboration with DG Santé (see more at this link). A summary of HERA’s activities in the field of crisis preparedness and emergency response is also available here. A budget of €6 billion from the current Multiannual Financial Framework 2022-2027 is available to fund HERA’s setup and activities, plus additional support from other EU programmes, for a total of almost €30 billion. HERA will be part of the internal Commission structure, and it is expected to become fully operational in early 2022.

HERA’s role is to improve the EU’s development, manufacturing, procurement and distribution of key medical countermeasures said the Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides, following the recent Informal Meeting of Health Ministers in Ljubljana, Slovenia -. HERA will also be crucial in ensuring accessibility and availability of medicines. As I said to Ministers today, HERA is a joint undertaking, with Member States, EU Agencies, the European Parliament and other concerned stakeholders, including industry and civil society. HERA’s strength and success will come from our joint preparedness and joint response, and our capacity to bringing joint solutions. HERA is now operational and should be fully up and running early next year.

HERA’s first activities

The call for tender on antimicrobial resistancerefers to a service contract to run a study comprehensive of a technological review of the latest AMR medical-countermeasures (e.g.; medicines, medical devices, vaccines) and a gap analysis and assessment of needs amongst the EU Member States and key stakeholders. The study shall also include options for possible actions, funding and provision of support mechanisms, and exploration of available tools suitable to ensure the availability of safe and effective products in the European market. These products are expected to be immediately available to the EU and member states in the event of a public health emergency. The estimated total value of the tender is €1 million.

Stockpiling of medical countermeasures in the area of AMR is the subject of the second feasibility study (estimated total value €1 million). The study shall analyse physical stockpiling solutions compared to other options, providing identification and assessment of all available opportunities. The needs and availability of AMR countermeasures shall be also assessing, both at member states and EU level, as well as the mapping of relevant stockpiling systems currently operated at EU and/or global level (e.g. WHO). Possible funding mechanisms (including procurement options), identification and assessment of operational deployment mechanisms and considerations on liability and regulatory aspects and/or constraints are also to be included in the study.

The third feasibility study has the higher estimated total value (€5 million) and will focus on the design and prototype development for a mapping platform on Covid-19 therapeutics in the EU. The platform is expected to map the production capacity and supply of products intended to treat Covid-19, both already on the market and in R&D phases. Possible examples include ICU medicines, heparin, dexamethasone and antibiotics, in vitro diagnostics devices and/or companion diagnostics.

Comments from stakeholders

Many stakeholders released their comments to welcome the creation of the new Authority.

The creation of HERA is a first step to putting Europe on the front foot in addressing global health threats.”, said EFPIA Director General, Nathalie Moll. “The speed at which Europe became the epicentre of the Covid-19 crisis meant, as a region, we were simply reacting to issues as they arose, working together to find solutions as quickly as possible”.

The lessons learnt during the pandemic revealed a number of weaknesses in Europe’s ability to respond to a public health crisis. HERA’s ability to balance coordination and unity with agility and responsiveness as threats emerge shall be central to its success, according to EFPIA. The Federation, together with Vaccines Europe, supports an end-to-end approach to govern HERA’s activities, and a collaborative, partnership-based model to maximise the strength of each stakeholder in a highly coordinated approach.

The association representing the generic and biosimilar industry, Medicines for Europe, wrote in a note that HERA should “be an efficient agency with strong links to healthcare industries”. A joint industrial cooperation forum to coordinate interactions of manufacturing associations and EU authorities, a regulatory framework able to prioritise the supply of essential medicines and the elimination of the proposal for redundant manufacturing capacity are just some suggestions made by the Association, which is more favourable towards manufacturing investment in a wide range of medicine production types, as outlined in the Structured Dialogue.

Reserve policies should be also revised in order to avoid waste, costly destruction, and distorting supplies of medicines to certain (smaller) EU countries. The functioning of joint procurement system should be also addressed and improved by the Commission, to avoid distortions in the internal market and provide accurate demand estimates.

The Federation of the European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) published in May 2021 a report jointly prepared with the Wellcome Trust, highlighting the opportunity in the short term not to overstep HERA’s role in relation to others European authorities (e.g. the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) as a pre-requirement to ensure its success.

The new-born Authority should also try to harmonise the European research and development landscape for pandemic preparedness and response, in order to remain “relevant and active between emergencies”.


The Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe

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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

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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

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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.