EMA warns relocation could deliver major hit to budget
- Staring down a looming decision on relocation, the European Medicines Agency's board has begun discussing the potential implications of a move from its current London headquarters on the agency's budgets in 2018 and 2019.
- A final budget will be proposed in December after the European Council decides next month on which of the 19 proposed locations will be the EMA's new home as a result of the U.K.'s decision to leave the EU. An assessment of each bid was published on September 30.
- The EMA currently expects to face challenges retaining staff, which could slow down operations and consequently lead to a drop in income from the fees paid by industry for reviewing applications.
Last week's update from the EMA's management board provided yet another warning of the potential negative consequences from relocating the regulator.
The move could potentially disrupt the EMA's review of experimental medicines and lead to widespread staff departures, depending on the European Council's choice of a new host country. The most recent update highlighted how restricted operations could lead to a "dramatic drop in free income," while replacing any staff who quit would further exacerbate the hit to the agency's budget.
"If operations are delayed or have to stop because of massive staff losses, the agency could experience a dramatic drop in fee income which would in turn result in reduced payments to the national competent authorities," the EMA said in a statement.
With the European Commission's publication of its assessment of the 19 bids, the process has moved into the final — and crucial — stage ahead of the European Council's vote on a new location.
Each bid was scored by the Commission according to the technical assessments of the proposed headquarters buildings and the relocation plan. Other criteria were also taken into account, such as accessibility of the location, local education, the labor market, medical care and business continuity.
No countries met the Commission's highest standard — "meets EMA requirements and ensures that EMA is operational on time" — across the three categories of layout, facilities and relocation plan. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bratislava, Brussels, Copenhagen and Milan were in the highest category for two of the requirements yet were ranker lower on one of the three.
When looking at the other location criteria, only Vienna met the highest standard for accessibility, education, labor markets and staff retention. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, and Milan were in the highest category for three criteria, and in the second highest for a fourth.
The assessment specifically did not rank the bids or compose a short list of the most favored candidates. However, the evaluation results suggest the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and Italy could be in the final running. It's not clear whether the current political uncertainty in Spain around the potential secession of Catalonia would impact Barcelona's bid.
Perhaps related, the EMA has recently put out a tender worth roughly $40 million for a supply of temporary workers. The deadline for receiving contracts is in early November, two weeks ahead of the expected decision date.
- BioPharma Dive Who will host the EMA? A brief guide to the leading contenders
- European Medicines Agency Press release
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