budget cuts 08.02

In early February, BioMed Alliance expressed its strong disappointment with political decisions to cut the EU4Health budget by 1 billion and the Horizon Europe budget by 2.1 billion Euros. With the COVID-19 pandemic still fresh in our minds, and the number of people suffering from chronic diseases steadily increasing, we need more investment in health and research. With the EU elections coming up in June this year we hope that health and research will continue to be a priority in the elections, and for the new Parliament and Commission.

On November 17, the Civil Society Forum of the European Commission’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) adopted its first discussion paper on the strategy and future role of HERA. The drafting of the paper was coordinated by the BioMed Alliance and it recommends increased investment into health emergency preparedness and response in addition to closer integration of strategies on the EU level. It focuses on a range of issues including strong and separate funding streams, enhanced coordination and the need to have a broader scope beyond merely medical countermeasures to immediate health emergencies. The paper will inform the upcoming mid-term review of HERA’s mandate in 2024

The medical & scientific community represented within the BioMed Alliance has published a new statement expressing its strong concerns about the consequences of the European Citizens Initiative ‘Save cruelty free cosmetics - Commit to a Europe without animal testing’ for biomedical research. While the first two parts of the Citizens’ Initiative refer to protecting the animal testing ban for cosmetics and to transforming the chemicals regulation (the BioMed Alliance has no official position on this), the third part on modernising science could affect the European health research sector. Read the statement here.

The BioMed Alliance was appointed as a member of the European Commission’s HERA Civil Society Forum. The Forum, as a sub-group of the HERA Advisory Forum, will help to ensure that HERA receives regular input on the views and expertise of the civil society stakeholders. The BioMed Alliance will serve as a liaison between HERA and our members.

The European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) is a key pillar of the European Health Union and will fill a gap in the EU's health emergency response and preparedness. It was launched as a European Commission Directorate-General in 2021. The instrument anticipates threats and potential health crises, through intelligence gathering and building the necessary response capacities.

Towards a European Health Union: Role of the BioMed Alliance

Axel Pries Biomed 031

Dear Friends and Colleagues in the BioMed Alliance,

May be, you allow me to start with a provocative question: Why are you investing time and energy into the BioMed Alliance? There is no money in it, little glory and a lot of work!

I guess that for most of us there are two main reasons, which are closely linked: A very friendly and synergistic group drives the BioMed Alliance – and that is done on the basis of a common goal:

Improve health provision throughout Europe and for all medical disciplines based on excellent health research.  

That leads us without any delay to the actual efforts to establish a European Health Union. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated that European coordination and cooperation in health and biomedical research are vital. It was obvious that Europe has a very large potential with respect to biomedical research, innovation, transfer and medical treatment.

But the crisis has also shed a spotlight on the fact that we have a substantial problem in coordination of our efforts and in the optimal use of our resources. This is true in science and research and in the medical field – and especially at the interface between both areas, the translation. Translation is exactly the domain of the member societies of the BioMed Alliance representing over 400.000 researchers, physicians and health professionals in Europe. It is the daily business of all these societies to learn from new scientific insights, to disseminate knowledge, to foster new medical developments and to look far ahead in science based education and planning. It is also clear to all members of these societies that the medical entities they address day in day out do not respect borders or national regulations. They know that medical problems tend to be hard to fight and that success requires sustained efforts, often over decades!

It is our task in Europe to generate optimal mechanisms to deal with the fundamental international nature of diseases, science and medical treatment options in the framework of the political and organizational structure of the EU. The diversity of backgrounds, approaches and concepts in Europe provides for a very rich environment of excellence and ideas. The increasing international standing of European science reflects this. However, this positive diversity should not lead to a fragmentation of resources. The inclusive democratic control processes of the EU should not prevent sustained and coordinated initiatives in research and translation.  

The Framework and Horizon programmes of the EU are by far the most significant transnational funding schemes in Europe. They bring together scientists and researchers from all countries. Nevertheless, they usually do not support the sustained efforts needed to address the most severe questions in medical science. There is always the danger of a ‘flash in the pan’ instead of the continuous development towards real solutions for large problems.

In the current discussion triggered by the CoVid Pandemic the European ‘Health Emergency Response Authority’ (HERA) was established, and is in part addressing the weaknesses described above. HERA is certainly necessary to fight future health emergencies, but it is not sufficient to unleash Europe’s potential in the field of biomedical research, translation and treatment. Its focus is on ‘Health Emergencies’ that represent only a relatively small sector of the entire medical requirements. 

The BioMed Alliance has long argued for the foundation of a broader coordinating body in Europe, tentatively named ‘European Council for Health’. The European Council for Health should bring together stakeholders from civil society, industry and politics under a scientific leadership and initiate and coordinate the entire translational spectrum reaching from basic research to innovative medical solutions in prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The European Council for Health would be a central pillar for a European Health Union by making health research and health provision in Europe more equal and more effective. Let’s work together effectively for a European Health Union by taking the responsibility for Health for all. This is a good reason to invest time and energy into the BioMed Alliance.

With my best regards

Axel R Pries

The BioMed Alliance and EU health Coalition expressed their concerns about the proposed budget cuts for European research funding.

The European Council met 17-21 July and proposed to reduce the financial envelope for the implementation of the Horizon Europe programme for the period 2021-2027 to €80.9 billion. EU leaders also decided to cut the budget of the new Health Programme, EU4Health, by almost €8 billion to €1.6 billion.

The BioMed Alliance and its partners outlined how the proposed cuts may hinder health research in two EU health coalition statements; one right before the summit asking for an appropriate budget and one after expressing concern about the proposed budget cuts.

The European Parliament still has to approve the agreement before it is finalised.

The "European initiatives for health research and development” workshop was held at the World Health Summit in Berlin on Sunday 29th October 2019. The workshop was hosted by the BioMed Alliance, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the M8 Alliance. The report summarises the speakers’ perspectives and views on the future design of European health research and global partnerships.

More info here