Brexit continues to be front page news and uncertainty still governs. Below is a round up for the life sciences industry and a look into what 2017 will bring next:

  1. The UK Government Brexit position still unclear – The UK government welcomed the Brexit report prepared by the UK life sciences industry and presented to the UK EU Life Sciences Steering Group in early September 2016, but has since sent out mixed messages about how far it would be willing to accommodate sector demands in an overall Brexit negotiation strategy and, more generally, what type of relationship it wishes to pursue with the European Union.
  2. On 21 November Theresa May announced additional funding for R&D and tax incentives to stimulate innovation in the UK including in the life sciences industry. Such extra funding would be distributed through a new to be established national productivity investment fund with 23 billion pounds to spend.
  3. A second meeting of the UK EU Life Science Steering Group took place on 23 November. The meeting focused on the progress made in the various work streams of the transition program further analysing sector impact on regulatory, people, trade etc. Dates for further meetings are yet to be announced.
  4. The UK Government is said to release an industrial strategy for consultation early 2017. The life sciences industry like other sectors would be able to comment on the proposals before article 50 is triggered.
  5. Meanwhile the European Medicines Agency currently based in London has set up a Brexit task force co-chaired by Noel Wathion and Tony Humphreys. The Agency which is expected to relocate when the UK exits the EU is preparing for the challenges ahead. Based on a survey conducted amongst staff it estimates that it could possibly lose 50 % of its staff, which represents a threat to the European regulatory system. Business continuity plans are being looked at following advise of the European Court of Auditors. EMA’s executive director Guido Rasi has told European members of parliament that the Agency has experienced staffing disruptions since the outcome of the referendum in June 2016. Sweden, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy and Spain all expressed interest for hosting the Agency. It is not known at this point when the decision for relocation would be made (immediately after triggering article 50 or later on in the process) and there is no established process for assignment.
  6. On 28 November the UK government announced its intention to ratify the European Unified Patent Court Agreement. For further information and comments please see Hiroshi Sheraton’s blog posting “UK Government to continue preparations to ratify Unified Patent Court Agreement” dated November 28, 2016

Preparing for the unknown is difficult. The impact may vary significantly between a scenario of the UK maintaining access to the single market and withdrawing completely from the single market with all implications. Even when the UK position becomes clearer in the spring of 2017 the question remains how the other Member States will position themselves. Uncertainty will continue for some time to come.