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BSI Weekly Policy And Public Affairs Update

BSI Policy & Public Affairs Update

28 May - 1 June

Government asks for public views on vaccines report

In early 2016, a petition calling for wider access to the meningitis B vaccine was signed by over 800,000 people. This prompted the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to investigate the ways that vaccines are costed and approved, with the ‘Cost-Effectiveness Methodology for Immunisation Programmes & Procurements (CEMIPP) report being published in February this year. Somewhat surprisingly, this resulted in the recommendation that the NHS availability of the meningitis B vaccine be reduced, rather than widened as was hoped.

Following calls from the Commons Petitions Committee and meningitis charities, the Government has announced the opening of an accessible consultation so that the public can share their views on the way that vaccines are funded and made available. To assist people in understanding the full details of the CEMIPP report, the Government published a lay version of the original CEMIPP report. Following pressure stemming from a recent roundtable, attended by Steve Brine MP and BSI Treasurer Fiona Culley, the consultation has also been extended to 28 June 2018 to allow respondents enough time to review this recent document.

The BSI has submitted its response to the CEMIPP report. To submit a response, click here, or for more information, click here.

Government publishes plan for post-Brexit UK-EU science partnership

The Department for Exiting the European Union have published a framework for a future science, research and innovation partnership between the UK and EU. The document outlines the jointly-agreed structure for discussions on the future framework, with both parties agreeing that the UK’s full and continued engagement in post-Brexit EU science and innovation programmes is ‘a win-win’ for the EU and UK. The framework is welcomed by the BSI and the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), with CaSE’s Executive Director Sarah Main saying:

“This document is positive and pragmatic. It will prompt a sigh of relief among the science community as many of the uncertainties that have begun to bite are addressed with purposefulness and enthusiasm. It provides welcome clarification of UK intentions on researcher mobility, the remit of the ECJ, and association with Horizon Europe. 

It shows that the science and innovation community have been heard and are at the heart of the Department for Exiting the EU's thinking on the future partnership between the UK and EU. The document acknowledges the win-win of an early agreement on science. As it says, science is an area where we do not need to wait.”

Government responds to Commons Home Affairs Committee Brexit and Immigration report

In February, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee published ‘Home Office delivery of Brexit: immigration’. This report made a number of conclusions and recommendations to the Home Office including UK visas, residency and citizenship for EEA and EU nationals, as well as expressing concern over the publication delay of the White Paper on immigration, which will set out the immigration options open to the Government following Brexit.

Last week, the Government responded to this report by stating that, amongst many other details, it was working to negotiate the EU exit Settlement Scheme, a system through which EU citizens and their family members protected by the Withdrawal Agreement will be able to remain in the UK. A final report, produced in collaboration with the Migration Advisory Committee and detailing how the UK’s immigration system will align with the Industrial Strategy, is scheduled to be published in September, although an interim update can be read here. The full response to all recommendations made in the Committee’s report can be read here.

Science minister Sam Gyimah delivers speech on importance of international collaboration in research

On Monday, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Sam Gyimah delivered a speech in Brussels to a reception co-hosted by the Wellcome Trust and the UK Permanent Representative.

Focusing on the importance of cross-border relationships to mutual world-class research and innovation, he reiterated the UK’s intention to have full association to EU funding programme Horizon Europe, the successor to Horizon 2020, as well as nuclear research framework Euratom Research and Training. He also spoke about the UK exploring options by which the UK could remain part of the European Medicines Agency, the EU body responsible for the regulation of medicines in the EU.

He finished off by stating “We must support our researchers and innovators by working hard to give them access to the people and support they need to continue to produce world class research excellence”, a notion which is shared by the BSI.

Government commits £30 million to tackle antimicrobial resistance

It is estimated that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) accounts for around 5,000 deaths in the UK and 700,000 deaths globally.  Last week, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that it will commit £30 million of funding to combat AMR primarily in low- and middle-income countries. The funding will be delivered via four key projects:

  • £20 million will be used to fund the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X), a partnership which supports research on the most dangerous drug-resistant bacteria. Funding will be used to develop new vaccines and other alternatives to antibiotics.
  • £5 million will be used on a new partnership with Argentina. The BBSRC, NERC and Argentina’s National Scientific and Technological Research Council (CONICET) will join forces to tackle AMR in farming.
  • £5 million will be invested in the Foundation for Innovate New Diagnostics (FIND). FIND aim to develop, evaluate and deliver high quality tests for poverty-related diseases: this funding will specifically go towards enhancing point-of-care diagnostics for AMR surveillance.
  • £1 million will be invested in the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) to support development of a new antibiotic for drug-resistant gonorrhea.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, said:

“Today’s announcement is further evidence of the UK collaborating with international partners to lead global efforts to tackle AMR. The GAMRIF investments aim to protect the world’s most vulnerable and tackle AMR where the burden of infection is greatest.

“I am pleased that the UK will be working in partnership with a range of leading organisations to deliver vital research activities across the OneHealth spectrum – together this represents a formidable force against the threat of superbugs.”

Call for submissions – inquiry into Government progress on antimicrobial resistance

The Health and Social Care Committee has launched an inquiry into the Governments progress in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Due to the continued spread of drug resistance, it is important that the UK delivers on aims set out in its 2013-2018 AMR strategy and continues to make combating AMR a priority. 

The Committee seeks evidence on the progress of the Government to date in responding to the challenge of AMR, including: 

  • What results have been delivered by the UK AMR 2013–2018 strategy?
  • What should be the key actions and priorities for the Government’s next AMR strategy, due to be published at the end of this year.

Submissions should not exceed 3,000 words, and should reach the Committee by Friday 29 June 2018. Oral evidence is expected to be taken in September. To submit evidence, click here.