EMA needs Sweden’s strong scientific environment

The ongoing tussle for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is entering its knockout stages; the decision about which candidate countries will progress to the final elimination round has now been taken – and Sweden is on that list. And if we emerge victorious when the final winner of the bid to become EMA’s new host country is announced during the second half of November, there is little doubt that it would bring numerous positive effects for Sweden and not least the Stockholm-Uppsala region.

The approximately 40,000 visitors who travel to the EMA every year to participate in meetings would obviously mean a lot for the hospitality industry regarding hotel nights, restaurant visits and shopping, for example.

In this relocation struggle, it is also important to highlight what Sweden can offer the EMA and EU as a whole. One key aspect is that we are to a very large extent a global research force to be reckoned with, and that farsighted investments made several decades ago have laid the foundation for Sweden not just contending to attract the EMA but – according to several experts – actually lying at the very frontline of the battle to win it. Obviously infrastructure, logistics, housing, etc., are necessary to accommodate the EMA staff and their families, but these prominent pharmaceutical experts also need a vibrant scientific environment in which to work.

But no matter how it goes with the EMA, we have every reason to continue to strengthen our position in the pharmaceuticals field, and it is quite obvious that very powerful research initiatives are the key to success. Moreover, these efforts are needed in all areas, i.e. the academic, healthcare and business sectors.

In addition to significantly contributing to the nation’s GDP – according to LIF (the Swedish Pharmaceutical Industry Association) pharmaceutical exports account for six percent of total Swedish export revenues – Sweden has everything to gain by being a leader rather than a follower in this important area. Among other things, it enables us to ensure that the medicines of the future can be developed and used optimally for us and for coming generations. It’s a complex area and often requires a multi-disciplinary approach and grants.

We must continue to nurture what is unique to Sweden in this regard – the role of universities and our long tradition of academia as a close collaborative partner for both healthcare and industry. Now the global business community also talks about the importance of such cooperation and extends a welcoming hand to universities, small business ventures and biotech companies alike. Here we are already far ahead and if we combine this leadership with, for example, our unique patient registries, we will be better equipped than almost any other member country to develop and optimise EMA’s important work.

In brief, Stockholm-Uppsala has much to offer the EMA, not least, as the Government has pointed out, that in addition to internationally-strong universities, the region also boasts the Swedish Veterinary Institute, Sweden’s University of Agricultural Sciences and, in particular, the Swedish Medical Products Agency (MPA). We who work in the field of medicine already know that the MPA enjoys great respect internationally. This has been confirmed many times by several international experts and was recently emphasised at a Parliamentary ‘Pharmaceuticals Day’ hosted by none other than the EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi, who clearly stated “Sweden has the strongest regulatory authority in the EU”.

If the EU’s Heads of Government do decide to choose Sweden as the new host country, the EMA will be located in one of Europe’s most vibrant scientific environments, in North Hagastad between Stockholm and Solna – perfectly situated next to Karolinska Institutet and the New Karolinska Hospital. A stone’s throw from the E4 motorway, which takes us to Uppsala in just over half-an-hour. And cycling distance from a number of leading pharmaceutical companies and internationally-recognised universities. It would not only benefit Sweden but the whole of Europe as well.

Karin Meyer, CEO, Swedish Pharmaceutical Society

- 2019-06-25

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