Greetings all, and please click here for EAPM’s monthly newsletter for July. Prior to tipping into that month, and the start of the German EU Presidency, we still have our virtual conference on 30 June, with a wide range of great speakers, a variety of hot topics, and lively Q&A sessions to keep everyone involved, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan.
And in July itself, we also have a global conference, structured to take in different time zones across the world – more of that in the newsletter, but you can register for it by clicking here and here is the link to the agenda.
Meanwhile…on the move
Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris, with whom EAPM has previously worked directly, is now the minister for higher education, innovation and research. This is following the weekend’s election of Micheál Martin as new prime minister.
Harris will have the job of putting together a new Department of Higher Education, Innovation and Research, while Stephen Donnelly will take over as health minister.
We wish them both nothing but the best, and look forward to working with Stephen as we move forward.
Also on the move is, of course, Emer Cooke, who is the incoming head of the European Medicines Agency.
Emer is well used to bringing together regulators, health authorities, health care professionals and industry, which will certainly help her in her new role at the EMA.
Cooke holds a degree in pharmacy from Trinity College in Ireland and worked in the pharmaceutical industry ion the Emerald Isle.
She also spent some time at the Irish regulatory agency before moving to EFPIA as manager of scientific and regulatory affairs.
According to Politico, the chair of EFPIA’s Regulatory Strategy Committee Alan Morrison said: “This is a pivotal time for both public health and innovation in health care in Europe and globally…We need someone like Emer to bring these two agendas together to deliver regulation that is ‘fit for innovation’ and able to better connect research, development and access for patients and society.”
Morrison is also of the view that lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic will help to speed up the EMA’s Regulatory Science Strategy, “to arrive at a European regulatory environment that is sufficiently flexible and adaptable to deal with future public health threats as well as technological innovations, such as novel clinical and evidentiary methods, precision medicines and integrated health-care solutions”.
Once again, good luck to Emer from all at EAPM, out partners and stakeholders.
Vaccine for COVID-19 not guaranteed, says WHO
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cast doubt on finding a vaccine for COVID-19 when he addressed the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee recently.
He said: “It will be very difficult for sure to say we will have a vaccine. We never had a vaccine for [a] coronavirus.”
He added: “When discovered – I say when discovered, hoping that it would be discovered, instead of saying if discovered – it would be the first one, and having the first of anything is difficult.”
Staying with the WHO, Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has rejected a warning from the organisation that included Sweden among countries in Europe at risk of a resurgence in COVID-19 numbers.
The WHO has said several countries and territories were seeing a rise in infections., with eleven of them being in the Europe region.
Dr Tegnell told Swedish TV it was a “total misinterpretation of the data” and blamed the apparent rise in cases as due to more testing.
WHO was having none of that, saying that the proportion of those testing positive remained “at about 12-13%” despite increased testing.
Meanwhile, Germany and France have pledged their support for the WHO – called “a puppet of China” by US President Donald Trump – after holding recent talks with its director general Ghebreyesus, in Geneva.
Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said Berlin would gift more than €500 million in cash and equipment to the agency this year, while France’s health minister, Olivier Veran, promised €50m in direct funding and another €90m for its research centre in Lyon.
Veran said: “I truly believe the world needs, more than ever, a multilateral organisation. I believe the world cannot get rid of partners.”
Cancer mission doc released
The European Commission released its “Conquering Cancer: Mission possible” plan at the end of June – a bold vision to “avert more than 3 million additional premature deaths over the period 2021 – 2030”.
How will this happen? By pushing forward cancer prevention and control programmes, and making them more accessible.
One idea included is an EU-wide research programme aimed at identifying polygenic risk scores. This would use data from individuals across Europe to create a database of genetic information.
Adding this to an algorithm could measure people’s cancer risk by spotting genes, or groups of them, linked with higher rates of cancer.
“Based on an increased understanding of individual cancer risks, education activities and counselling could be improved,” the mission document states.
Public health – changes for the usual suspects
In the arena of public health, alcohol comes up often, of course.
Now EU ambassadors have agreed to change some alcohol excise taxes, to help smaller alcohol suppliers.
Changes include increasing the minimum percentage of alcohol in beer (from 2.8%t to 3.5%) that qualify it for lower taxes.
This, goes the logic, should encourage consumers to consume drinks with lower alcohol.
The new rules also involve extending the lower taxes beyond small producers of beer and ethyl alcohol to include other fermented drinks such as cider. Also on the cards is an EU-wide certification process for independent small alcohol producers.
It needs to be given the nod by the Council, but would;d the rules would enter into force on 1 January, 2021.
Staying with public health and another big player – smoking – the Health Ministry in the Netherlands has announced that flavoured cartridges for e-cigarettes are to be banned. The idea is to make them less pleasant-tasting to young people.
That’s it for June. Hopefully we’ll all catch up at the conference tomorrow and, if not, do look out for an event report down the line. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the newsletter (click here) and find it entertaining and useful.