Novo Nordisk backs Denmark’s bid to host EMA post-Brexit

Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark has formally joined the list of countries competing to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after Brexit. And the campaign has already enlisted high-profile support, with local success story Novo Nordisk talking up Copenhagen and its ex-CEO Lars Rebien Sorensen signing up as special envoy for the bid.

The Danish capital threw its hat into the ring with a launch event and accompanying blitz of online activity. Novo Nordisk fired off a series of posts on Twitter about the merits of moving EMA to its home country. The posts drew on data compiled by the organizers of the EMA to Copenhagen bid in a 28-page report designed to show the city “offers the optimal conditions” for the regulatory agency.

Ex-Novo Nordisk CEO Sorensen, who the Harvard Business Review titled the “world’s best-performing CEO”, is bringing his connections and clout to the campaign as special envoy. Denmark will likely need these and other advantages if it is to succeed.

“There is no doubt that the competition is tough, but I am convinced that it will be valuable to both the EMA, Denmark and the EU to place the agency in Copenhagen,” Anders Samuelsen, the Danish foreign minister, said in a statement.

Copenhagen joins Amsterdam, Milan, Stockholm, Barcelona and Dublin on the list of cities to have set up campaigns to woo EMA. More cities are in the process of preparing bids. Each is talking up their science bases, links to the rest of Europe and the quality of life they can offer EMA staffers.

Only the Czech Republic and Estonia have ruled themselves out, according to the Financial Times, suggesting the scrap to host EMA could turn into a 20-way tug of war. While the cities that have formalized their interest to date have clear strengths, they may butt up against political pressures to home EU institutions in countries thaat joined after 2004 or lack an agency today. These factors favor the likes of Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia.

Given the benefits of hosting an organization with a highly-educated workforce of around 900 people—that also acts as a beacon to biopharmas looking to put down roots in Europe—the fight is expected to be fierce.

“Forget about solidarity, this will be messy, ugly, everyone for themselves,” a European diplomat working on an EMA bid told the FT.

While EMA and its operations should be insulated from any ugliness as the decision rests with the European Council, it will be affected if the process drags on. EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi has spoken of the need to know the new location of EMA sooner rather than later. A prolonged period of uncertainty or upheaval could affect staffing at EMA, hindering the agency’s ability to do its job at a time when it also risks losing access to the British experts who help it function today.