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Report reveals benefits of EU-UK medical research partnerships

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by Cancer Research UK | News

30 May 2017

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Partnerships between UK and EU medical researchers have increased the value of research, benefiting patients across Europe, according to a report* published today (Tuesday).

“Science is global and this report highlights the benefits that researchers working together can have for patients”Sir Harpal Kumar

The report, commissioned by eight leading UK medical organisations, highlights how the UK’s contribution to research throughout the EU has fostered and strengthened scientific co-operation.

As negotiations begin on a new relationship between the UK and the EU, it’s vital that they result in the best possible outcome for science and patients across the EU.

Clinical trials have benefitted hugely from UK and EU researchers working together, especially those for rarer diseases where the UK leads the highest number of trials. As the number of patients with rarer conditions is low in each country, it’s only possible to recruit enough patients for clinical trials by carrying out trials across countries.

The leadership role played by the researchers in the UK in Europe is reflected through their extensive membership of influential scientific committees and panels.  UK researchers accounted for 17 per cent of the membership of the Scientific Advisory Boards at Germany’s Max Planck Institutes, the highest proportion from one country.

This leadership extends to the UK’s authorities, including the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Between 2008 and 2016, the MHRA acted as Scientific Advice Co-ordinator in at least a fifth of centralised EMA medicine approvals.

A number of experts from across Europe were interviewed for the report. Many highlighted the UK’s ability to conduct translational research to discover new treatments and devices that can benefit patients across Europe. This has included the development of a new generation of genetically targeted personalised medicines through to interventions for wellbeing and mental health.

The UK’s role as a key trainer of scientists is also laid out in the report. Around 16,000 students from EU countries are enrolled on biomedical courses at UK higher education institutes. Around 20 per cent of EU nationals trained in the UK went on to take up positions in other European countries.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Science is global and this report highlights the benefits that researchers working together can have for patients wherever they are in Europe.

“As the UK and the EU enter into negotiations to determine the new relationship it’s vital that ensuring collaborations between medical researchers across Europe continue is a priority. By creating an environment that allows the best minds to work together, wherever they are, we will accelerate the life-saving discoveries that will help people across Europe.”