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BSI Weekly Policy and Public Affairs Update

BSI Policy and Public Affairs Update

30 April - 4 May


BSI cited in House of Lords report on Life Sciences Industrial Strategy

The BSI was cited in the recent report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee ‘Life Sciences Industrial Strategy: Who’s driving the bus?’. The report assesses the Government’s current progress and delivery of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and looks at how they can implement the Strategy to secure the future growth and expansion of the life sciences sector in the future.

The report states that the BSI has ‘recommended that more opportunities for training in business development skills should be offered, which would take academics “out of their comfort zones and … instill a more entrepreneurial mind-set. Indeed, these opportunities could be integrated into undergraduate degree programmes to help blend commercial acumen into the training of the next generation of scientists”’


Government responds to Science and Technology Committee’s ‘Brexit, Science and Innovation’ report.

In March this year, the Commons Science and Technology Committee published the ‘Brexit: Science and Innovation’ report.  The report focused on the relationship between the UK and EU following Brexit in terms of immigration and visa policies, the UK’s participation in EU funding body and Horizon 2020 successor Framework Programme 9 (FP9) as well as its relationship with regulatory bodies such as the European Medicines Agency. It made multiple recommendations surrounding these issues; the response to which the Government has published today in the report Brexit, science and innovation: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report’. 

 

  • Upon EU-UK funding, the Government stated that it “intends to engage fully and constructively in the design of FP9” and that they “would like to ensure that FP9 remains open to our association” as well as acknowledging that to continue its association, appropriate financial contributions would be required. 

 

  • In terms of immigration and visas, the Government stated that they had brought in a range of measures, including doubling the number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas for top global science researchers as well as speeding up the process to switch from a temporary Tier 4 student visa to a more longer-term Tier 2 visa, supporting early career scientists. The Government also said that it looks forward to the publication of the final report “in September of this year to allow us to consider fully the recommendations as to the future immigration system”.

 

  • On UK relationships with EU regulatory bodies, the Government stated that after the Implementation Period they would ensure that national legislation would adhere to EU standards in terms of protecting the rights, safety, dignity and well-being of research participants. This would help the UK to collaborate with global regulators.

 

  • In response to the recommendation that the Government should urgently prioritise the negotiation of a science and innovation agreement, the Government responded by stating that they would like to discuss possible options in the establishment of a ‘far-reaching science and innovation pact with the EU’ as soon as possible.

 

Responding to the Government’s response, Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said:

“The Government’s response shows that there is still more for it to do to get the certainty that the science and innovation sectors need ahead of Brexit, to address the immigration concerns of the science community, and to get access to future collaborative research programmes.

“The case for the UK to be involved in the successor programme to Horizon 2020 is reinforced by the audacious announcement from the Commission to substantially increase the budget for science research to €100bn. The Committee will continue to monitor these critical issues in the months ahead.”

To read the full report in detail, visit the Science and Technology Committee page.


UK has worst asthma death rate in Europe

New analysis by Asthma UK has shown that the UK has the worst asthma death rates in Europe.  Experts at Asthma UK suggest that the poor death rate could be due to people not taking the condition seriously enough, as 1 in 6 people did not know if the condition could be fatal.

 Analysis of figures 2011-2015 showed that:

  • Asthma deaths have increased by more than 20% over 5 years: 1,434 people died from an asthma attack in 2015.
  • The UK’s average asthma death rate is more than 5 times worse than countries including Greece, Italy and the Netherlands.
  • Only Serbia, Turkey, Estonia, Spain and Cyprus had worse rates of asthma-related death, with countries such as Finland, Croatia and Germany showing a decline in asthma death rates.

Asthma UK is urging the NHS to invest in better asthma frontline services, for healthcare professionals to take asthma more seriously and diagnose patients effectively and quickly.  They are also calling for more funding into research to find a cure for the condition.


MPs debate the case for HPV vaccination for boys

On Wednesday 1 May, MPs debated the case for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for boys. HPV describes a group of over 100 common sexually-transmitted viruses that are often asymptomatic and resolve without treatment.  However, certain strains of HPV can lead to cervical cancer as well as cancers of the vulva, penis, anus, head and neck. Currently, the HPV vaccine is offered on the NHS to girls ages between 12-13.

Upon a 2015 recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the HPV vaccine is also offered to men who have sex with men in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and will be offered in England as of June this year through a pilot programme. .  As HPV vaccination in girls has dramatically reduced rates of HPV infection in boys, the JCVI has thus far not recommended that boys also receive the vaccine. The body are, however, reviewing the evidence on the impact and cost-effectiveness of providing the HPV vaccine for boys throughout 2018

According to the Royal Society of Public Health, the JCVI’s decision has left “400,000 boys in the UK at risk from contracting the virus”, and the group HPV Action has suggested that the decision to not vaccinate boys could constitute sexual discrimination.

The BSI will continue to monitor updates on the outcomes of this debate.