Following a swift change-over, Theresa May entered No. 10 last Wednesday as the new UK Prime Minister and proceeded to appoint her new cabinet. Some notable changes which are relevant to our sector include the movement of Greg Clark to head up the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – a reform of BIS. Meanwhile Sajid Javid becomes Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Jeremy Hunt remains as Health Secretary and David Gauke becomes Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Over the weekend, we saw a flurry of additional Ministerial appointments being announced. Of key interest to our sector, George Freeman has been moved from the Life Sciences brief to take up the role of Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board. This is a key and central policy making position and great to have someone steeped with life sciences knowledge in this central role. Ministerial responsibilities are being confirmed as I write, so we do not yet have an absolute answer on whether the role held by Freeman will be replaced exactly and if not which Minister(s) will be responsible for life sciences and which Department(s) that will fall into. We know that Jo Johnson will retain his Universities and Science brief (but now working across both the Business and Education departments) and that other key faces for us will include newly appointed Health Ministers David Mowat and Nicola Blackwood. Nicola has engaged a lot with us recently, through her now prior role as Chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee but also as an Oxford MP, both at the recent BIA Parliament Day and at a private roundtable meeting in Oxford in May.
The new picture of government is further complicated by the fact that the shape of the new government currently features the creation of two new departments (the Department for Brexit and the Department for International Trade) and the demise or restructure of others (for example the absorption of the Department for Energy and Climate Change into the newly restructured Department for Business- now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy rather than the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills). We will keep members updated as we know more, particularly how the changes will relate to how the new UK EU Life Sciences Steering Group will operate (see below) and our next policy and regulatory affairs update report due at the end of the month will provide a more detailed analysis of the new government landscape. In the meantime, this Politics Home article has a handy table of the appointments if you’re interested.
You may have seen some press coverage that following the outcome of the EU referendum, George Freeman MP, former Life Sciences Minister, announced the formation of the UK EU Life Sciences Steering Group to oversee and manage the transition for the life sciences sector. The Steering Group has asked the ABPI and BIA to set up and support a UK EU Life Sciences Transition Programme to do this work and the attached briefing sets out further information about the Programme and how you can become involved. This includes via a webinar on Friday 22 July 12-1pm – register to attend here.
In other developments following the EU Referendum, the MHRA released a new statement last week explaining that the Agency continues to play a full, active role in European regulatory procedures. Details are provided in the statement in full here, along with their initial response from 27 June.
Also on the MHRA, following our joint regulatory conference back in May, last week we published a report summarising the presentations and perspectives from senior experts and leading speakers from MHRA, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the life science industry, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS England, academia, research charities, patient organisations and investment firms. The full report can be downloaded from the conference website, where you can also find the full programme and slide presentations for this year.
Finally, ending on some great news for the sector as MRC Technology announced it has monetised a portion of its royalty interest in leading cancer drug Keytruda – freeing up over £115M to expand its medical research activities. You can read about the role MRCT played in the development of the treatment in our Celebrate report. It’s fantastic to see the proceeds being reinvested in novel research and development – hopefully into the next Keytruda or two!