Report reveals benefits of EU-UK medical research partnerships

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

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.

Professor Sir Robert Lechler FMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: "Our relationship with researchers within the EU is mutually beneficial for both scientific research and patient care. The UK must prioritise maintaining and strengthening this valuable symbiotic alliance/partnership as we begin negotiations to leave the EU. This will ensure the best outcome for research, innovation and most vitally, for patients in the UK, Europe and beyond."

*The report – The Impact of Collaboration: the value of Uk medical research to EU science and health – was commissioned by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council, Arthritis Research UK, MQ: Transforming Mental Health, Association of Medical Research Charities, Wellcome, the Academy of Medical Sciences. The research was undertaken by Technopolis.

Copies of the report are available on request - please email for more information.

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