After Brexit, Our Times They Are a Changin’

In the relative blink of an eye, certain events in the past few days have highlighted two clear home truths: the disaffection of the voting UK majority with their political leaders and the uncertainty of where our toils in the life sciences will lead us as we move through the lengthy drug approval process.

First, the Brexit vote, which dominates the airwaves… It was rather surreal to awaken the day after the referendum to learn of the surprising result.  The markets predictably reacted with rabid alarm, though markedly rebounding shortly thereafter.  This will likely be the general state of affairs in the coming months as we first deal with leadership vacuums in both of the major parties and then work out the way forward in lengthy negotiations with Europe.  During that time we can expect to be deluged with possible scenarios that will cause short-term confusion.

The BELS team will continue to monitor developments and comment on what the future impacts may be.  For now, here’s what we do know.

  • It will be business as usual for some time with no change to the current situation in terms of how things stand.
  • We are in the EU for at least 2+ years as the negotiations commence with potential scenarios ranging from a Norwegian solution to the unlikely, ill-advised absolute freezing out of the UK.
  • In the meantime, the life sciences remains a high priority for the UK government, industry, academia and patients.
  • The UK has a relatively sophisticated array of regulations, fiscal policy, and patent protections that support and enable drug discovery and development.
  • The UK is a world leader in the health and life science sector with much to justify our continued “Great” tag, including our heritage of pioneering research, our strong science base, world-leading universities producing top-tier scientific talent that collaborates globally, the NHS, the world-renowned Wellcome Trust and a slew of other medical charities, strong R&D investment, experienced management teams, well-funded innovative companies positioned for growth, more novel therapeutics in the pipeline than any other country in Europe, a bevy of public and private initiatives focused on medical innovation that are well underway, and much more.

And finally, recent results registered in our sector…  In the past few days, two of our flagship companies have delivered contrasting news releases.

  • On the disappointing side, Circassia reported an unprecedented placebo effect in a late-stage trial of a drug to treat severe allergic reactions to cats, thus undoing a dramatic 60% improvement in the symptoms of all the patients with a very good safety profile.  As is their wont, the markets reacted unfavourably to this news with a 65% drop in the share price.
  • Shortly thereafter, on the flip side of the coin, came the positive news of GW Pharma shares surging upon stellar results from a Phase III trial of their epilepsy drug.

In closing, neither our country nor our industry are strangers to challenge and change. We’re accustomed to keeping a stiff upper lip while we take the good with the bad; facing challenges head on; and doing what we can to control our own destinies. Collectively we will put our shoulders to the proverbial wheel, adapt, adjust and continue to thrive!

Stay tuned!

Nigel Gaymond

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British Expats in Life Sciences (BELS) - a powerful, strategic membership network - is strengthening connections between highly-accomplished, British-trained health & life science leaders at home and abroad to encourage international collaboration by providing insights, intelligence, introductions and interactions.
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