Brexit ‘an opportunity,’ but EMA likely to leave London, says AstraZeneca

AZ says "there are opportunities for the country, for the industry and for our company on Brexit."

The executive team from AstraZeneca met this week with the U.K. government to discuss the country leaving the European Union, as its CEO says there are “opportunities” from the so-called Brexit vote as it appears “logical” for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to leave its current London home after the U.K. pulls out of the union.

In its financials this morning, Pascal Soriot said that, of course, talks with Europe on what Brexit will be haven’t happened yet, so there is still a lot of uncertainty. “But it is logical to assume that the EMA will have to stay in Europe, and that the U.K. will have to have its own agency, but I think here this can work quite well actually, provided that several things happen,” he said on a call.

“One is that the U.K agency works proactively with the EMA […] and work to recognize each other’s approvals. The second would be that the U.K agency would be agile and focused on innovation, as well as new technology and products, and in doing so could actually support the introduction of new technology.”

This echoes the U.K.'s health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who a few weeks' back told a health committee: “The EMA is an EU institution. I think it's likely EU countries will want to move its headquarters outside the U.K." 

This comes a few months after fellow U.K. Big Pharma CEO, the out-going Sir Andrew Witty, warned of “tremendous disruption” if the EMA left town. 

Sir Andrew was worried that moving the EMA and its 900 staff members from London to another European city post-Brexit will cause upheaval that affects the smooth running of the regulatory machinery.

On the impact of Brexit on his company and the industry, Soriot said: “As business people, once a decision has been made, whether you like it internally or not, you have to look for the opportunities and make the best of it.

“And I actually do think there are opportunities for the country, for the industry and for our company [on Brexit], and I think that the [U.K.] government is very committed to developing an industrial policy, and in particular one for life sciences.”

He said there have been in recent weeks statements on R&D as well as investment from the government in academic science that are all positives, and financial commitments in the manufacturing sector.

“This is important,” he says, “and I can tell you the industry, and us as a company, we have had very rich dialogue with the government as recently as this week. There is a very good and very strong, collaborative spirit, and from our point of view in the science and regulatory sense, I think we can do great things.”