Surveys, UK Biotech

The Great Pharma Brexit? An Endpoints News snap poll finds most life sciences insiders predicting a debacle for the industry

Perceptions matter, especially when opinions about the future are being formed in an industry that holds the key to growth where it’s wanted most. And right now the global biopharma business sees Brexit doing far more harm to biopharma in the UK than good.

By large margins.

Following up on a story we ran late last week on one industry poll regarding Brexit — at a time the UK’s rocky departure from the EU had blown into a full fledged political crisis — we decided it would be fun to run a snap survey of our own among readers and Twitter followers to get a broad look at the industry’s view of Brexit’s impact on drug development work and biotech creation — a key field for the island economy.

With 310 responses (clearly including a large number of readers in the UK), 8 out of 10 felt that Brexit would do more harm than good in the country, where life sciences has been a standout performer in the Golden Triangle.

Interestingly, 11.6% thought Brexit would neither harm nor benefit the industry while 7.4% — or 23 doughty optimists — felt there would be a benefit.

Why so much opposition? Here are some of the comments that were submitted on why they felt Brexit would be harmful:

One of the main reasons to have a pharma presence in UK is to do research in EU to establish close relations with regulators. All of this is compromised. Call it the great Pharma Brexit.

Significant uncertainty at the moment for planning purposes, additional bureaucracy/red tape in the long run, negative uncertainty has a dampening effect on future investments. It is very unlikely that there is upside benefit and much more likely that there is downside in Brexit for biopharma.

Britain will be isolated, lose the EMEA, become less attractive for foreign exchange students and international scientists, lose political and economic influence

Even if we align with the EMA we’re a smaller market. Anyone wanting to research for the European market will trial drugs in the EU and the UK is likely to follow EMA licensing, meaning that less research is carried out in the UK.

Several comments focused on problems recruiting — or keeping — the best talent.

Immigration reforms will reduce availability talent pool for Universities, biotech and the NHS. If it is a no-deal Brexit the impact on supply chains will be enormous.

Brain drain. 

May hinder collaborations/partnerships with EU-headquartered biopharma companies. 

But this glass is still more than half full for a small group of supporters who weighed in, expecting a surge of new business activity as the weight of EU bureaucracy is lifted.

Spur entrepreneurial spirit, reduce regulatory burden, etc.

Because the EU is a relatively recent phenomenon while trade between the UK and continental Europe has been ongoing for centuries. Everyone will figure out a way to optimize pharma, trade and commerce.

Innovation thrives where thinking creatively is encouraged and bureaucracy minimized. The EU powerhouses of France and Germany are relatively more sclerotic.

We’ll keep a thumb on the business pulse in the UK. This Brexit debate isn’t over yet.


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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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