Bioregnum, EMA

With relocation vote looming, the EMA is openly fretting as cities jockey for attention

The biggest decision that the EMA faces has nothing to do with any drug angling for a European approval or how it’s doing relative to the FDA in providing efficient product reviews. In 10 days the EU will vote on which of the 19 prospective cities will win the right to host the agency in one of the most hotly contested competitions to come out of the UK’s vote in favor of Brexit.

The winner will immediately get the full attention of the leaders of the EMA, who have a list of demands ready to go.

In this case, though, the London-based organization now residing on Canary Wharf is absolutely powerless. So it’s been doing the only thing it’s able to do — furiously flagging internal fears that a political decision will force them into some backwater location in Eastern Europe without a suitable place to do government business.

From their statement Wednesday:

The most pressing issue that needs the immediate attention of EMA and the host country is the Agency’s new premises.

Just fitting out its new headquarters will take 12 to 15 months, says the EMA. Building one in time will require fast action and a hurry-up construction schedule. Up to 900 households will have to be moved — unless the EU goes with an unwelcome location, in which case a majority of the EMA’s staff say they’ll just find other jobs.

And schooling for hundreds of their children? That all has to start being sorted out in a matter of months.

The EMA has made its preferences clear, ranking all 19 cities from A — with Amsterdam in the top 5 — to Z; for Zagreb in the bottom five.

What will the EU do? No one really knows, given the rules around the November 20 ballot. And that likely isn’t helping matters inside a jittery EMA.

“It’ll be a bloodbath,” one anonymous senior diplomat told Reuters. “Everyone will be fighting their corner. It will have nothing to do with the merits of these cities.”

Brent Saunders

That won’t calm any fears at the EMA. But this is one debate where everyone has a strong opinion.

Allergan CEO Brent Saunders, for example, is doing what he can this week to steer the EMA to Dublin — a rather weak number 9 on the EMA’s list. Allergan is based in Ireland primarily for tax reasons, along with a number of other biopharma companies, but that doesn’t make Saunders’ list of everything the country has going for it.

We chose Ireland as our home because of its commitment to scientific advancement, its tech-savvy workforce, government integrity, quality of life, commitment to the European Union and excellent airline connections to Europe and America.

And besides, everyone speaks English and you can hop on a flight to London almost anytime.

We’ll know in 10 days just how important that is to the EU.

Image: The EMA’s current HQ in London’s Canary Wharf Shutterstock

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

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