This past Friday, GEN covered the news that the U.K. had voted to leave the European Union: “Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip Despite Brexit.” GEN subsequently asked a number of biotech scientists and CEOs, both within and without the U.K. and the EU, for their opinion on the potential impact of Brexit on pharma, life science, and biotech research. Their responses appear below.

“I think the British public has made a big mistake in voting to leave the EU as it will negatively impact the economy and the life sciences industry. In the short term, life science businesses will be preoccupied trying to understand the impact and ways to address the major changes in the regulatory, IP, and funding landscapes. This will inevitably affect their ability to focus on their pipelines. Financial market confidence will also be a concern. In the intermediate term, the access to the EU single market and availability of skilled resources will be key. Ultimately, in the long term, I believe this will impact negatively on leading-edge research and the funding, which means that U.K. patients will not have ready access to the best new medicines.”
Geoff Davison, Ph.D., CEO, Bionow (U.K.)

“The U.K.’s future in the European Union was sacrificed on the altar of political power games. A big challenge for the pharma and biotech industries after the Brexit will be the war for talent. With stricter immigration laws and no direct access to the European labor force, it will be harder for U.K. companies to hire excellent people. A second equally important disadvantage is the expected exclusion of U.K. companies and universities from European research grants and programs—less funding, no access to leading European research teams. We live in competitive times and seemingly small disadvantages can easily add up to severe problems.”
Jan Lichtenberg, Ph.D., CEO, In Sphero (Switzerland)

“I think the impact on British biotech and life science research will be large. With the pound falling, per pound experimentation power will decline. Also, ready access to bright pan-European students and fellows to power up Britain's clearly excellent labs will be limited. Finally, I wonder a little bit about whether nationalism generally does not breed a subtle decline of awareness of the work of others and this may be detrimental—as will be the lack of access to EU research funding and ease of movement and collaboration. Isolationism strikes hard at those attempting to penetrate the boundaries of science and technology.”
Peter C. Johnson, M.D., Principal, MedSurgPI (U.S.)

“Whether a mistake or not, this will take some time to sort out. In the end, either way this went, I don't think mistake is the appropriate designation. In the short term, the impact is obvious. People were surprised and U.K./global markets have reacted negatively. But the vote by the people seemed more centered on the social side of the EU, immigration, commerce agreements, etc., which is where those outside the financial hub of London clearly had a different opinion. In the long term, I think markets will settle, the U.K. is not Greece, and the U.K. will certainly want to find a way to work with the greater EU going forward.”
Robert Clarke, Ph.D., CEO, Pulmatrix (U.S.)

“It is fair to say there is some concern as to whether a post-Brexit U.K. government will match the estimated £1 billion funding received by the life science research base from the £10 billion net contribution made to the European Union. However the U.K. will continue to punch significantly above its weight when it comes to life science innovation, and biotech and pharma companies domiciled here are exposed to a tax, regulatory, investment, and entrepreneurial framework that is the envy of the world. The future is still very bright for this sector in a post-Brexit U.K.”
Darrin Disley, Ph.D., President and CEO, Horizon Discovery (U.K.)

“Short-term I expect the impact to be minimal to Pharma, perhaps a financial hit to their stock.  Depending on the burn rate of individual biotechs, the short term effect could be significant if investors are losing patience.  Probably the biggest impact long term for both will be in human resources, but this will depend on what EU exit package is negotiated between Britain and the EU. Only time will tell what that is.”
Peter Banks, Ph.D., Scientific Director, BioTek Instruments (US)

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