Biopharma Business

Brexit: The Luck of the Irish?

 Breaking News

Brexit: The Luck of the Irish?

March 23
10:55 2017

The move by Great Britain to step away from the European Union may be sending chills of uncertainty to many businesses in the United Kingdom, but to at least one nearby neighbor Brexit may open the door to new opportunities.

Ireland could end up as an attractive alternative for pharmaceutical companies and others with significant dealings throughout the EU.

While no one seems to know the full potential impact of Brexit, especially in light of recent news that the move will require a vote in Parliament, the long-established Irish Development Agency (IDA Ireland) has already done a good deal of preparatory work examining the problems and opportunities that lie ahead.

IDA Ireland is an inward investment agency, formed several decades ago to promote foreign direct investment into Ireland. Nine of the top-10 global pharmaceutical companies have facilities in the country, it maintains a competitive tax rate, and offers easy access to the European market, according to the group.

An Umbilical Connection

Labeling Ireland as “umbilically” connected to Britain, Tommy Fanning, IDA Ireland’s head of biopharmaceuticals and food, said in an INTERPHEX Live video this week that a lot of what happens in Britain will affect Ireland and exiting the EU would likely have a major impact on the pharma community.

“Many companies use the U.K. as a base for their launch of new products because the European Medicines Agency (EMA) resides in the U.K.,” Fanning said. In addition, satellite companies that work with, supply, and/or support the pharmaceutical companies also are located near the EMA, as are research operations.

On the university research side, Fanning says roughly 1 billion pounds sterling in funding comes from the EU to U.K. research operations, along with thousands of jobs, many of which might become vulnerable if pharmaceutical research shifts elsewhere.

Located in London, the EMA is a decentralized agency of the European Union. It is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the EU.

“When Brexit goes through, the EMA will leave the U.K. for another European location and one surmises that once the EMA leaves the U.K., so will a lot of those (pharma-related) companies,” Fanning said.

Dublin Calling

For the EMA itself, the agency will need it to be a seamless move since it is critical for all of Europe, Fanning said, comparing the agency’s significance throughout Europe to that of the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

“Relocation has to be done so it doesn’t affect the operation … The people who work there today will be needed tomorrow,” he said. “Dublin can support such a relocation. It’s a 50-minute flight, has the infrastructure, is English-speaking, and Multicultural. He added that Ireland, unlike the U.K., uses the euro as currency.

Ireland and other European nations are preparing for Brexit in a vacuum at this point as the latest word from the U.K. indicates that, while Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 on March 29, actual Brexit talks may not begin until summer and can drag on for some time.

Not Too Early to Prepare

Still, Fanning suggested that, in preparation, life sciences companies with strong teams in England should start now to form a second site outside the country to ease the transition, even though the arduous Brexit negotiation process will likely take more than two years.

“Some agencies, including EMA, want a decision quickly so (one is likely) in a shorter term,” Fanning said.

From IDA Ireland’s perspective, INTERPHEX 2017 gives the agency a chance for pharmaceutical representatives at the show to learn about the depth of foreign companies that are already in place there, including the deep supply and technology support for life sciences available locally.

INTERPHEX provides a chance for IDA Ireland to visit with clients and for others to potentially use Ireland as a springboard for the future, according to Fanning.

IDA Ireland is located atINTERPHEX Booth 3909


Written by Mike Botta

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