Before we get into what’s been going on of late during these testing times (pun intended) here’s a quick reminder that registration will close very soon for next week’s virtual conference, which takes place on Tuesday 30 June, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan.
Entitled Maintaining public trust in the use of Big Data for health science in a COVID and post-COVID world, it acts as a bridging event between the EU Presidencies of Croatia and Germany.
Alongside our many great speakers, attendees will be drawn from leading experts in the personalised medicine arena – including patients, payers, healthcare professionals, plus industry, science, academia and the research field. We’ll be discussing, at some point during the day, most or all of what we’ll be talking about below.
Here is the link to register, but be quick!
In the meantime, if you get the opportunity, it may well be worth taking a look at the European Commission’s Innovation Scoreboard. Innovation is certainly something Europe is generally great at - although it does vary across member states and the implementation could certainly be better.
Obviously, it’s of key interest to EAPM and its members and partners, not least because innovation in healthcare is something we continuously work hard to promote and encourage.
The link for the site can be found here, but here’s a general idea of what to expect.
So, what is the European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS)?
The annual EIS provides a comparative assessment of research and innovation performance in EU Member States, other European countries, and our regional neighbours.
Its aim is to let policymakers assess relative strengths and weaknesses of national research and innovation systems, track progress, and identify priority areas to boost innovation performance.
The EIS covers the EU-27 plus Iceland, Israel, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK. It also looks at a limited number of global indicators from, for example, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, the Russian Federation, South Africa, South Korea, and the US.
Currently, based on scores for 27 separate indicators, including innovation activities in companies, investment in research and innovation, and human resource and employment elements, EU countries fall into four performance groups:
Innovation leaders are Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden, all of whom perform significantly above the EU average;
Strong innovators are Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal, all of which perform above or close to the EU average.
Moderate innovators are Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. These countries show an innovation performance below the EU average.
And modest innovators - which is putting it gently - are Bulgaria and Romania. Both countries come in below 50% of the EU average.
The EIS 2020 shows an improved overall innovation performance. For the EU as a whole, it increased by 8.9% between 2012 and 2019. Over the same period, the performance improved for 24 Member States, most notably for Lithuania, Malta, Latvia, Portugal and Greece, where the innovation performance grew by more than 20%.
Compared to the last year's edition, performance has improved for 25 member states, most notably for Cyprus, Spain, and Finland.
There’s plenty of more specific sector information online at the link above, so do take a look if you’ve the opportunity.
Progress - and lessons learned
We mentioned in our last update that the HTA discussions in Council have taken a hit from for the COVID-19 crisis, yet in France at least, this is apparently not the case.
Its Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) claims that COVID-19 has “hampered neither the arrival of [innovative medicines] on the market, nor their evaluation by the HAS”.
It seems that manufacturers are using the new fast-tracking applications from HAS more often, with 22 applications filed this year so far, compared to 16 in the entirety of last year.
HAS says it is also writing opinions more quickly. Good to know.
Meanwhile, generics lobby Medicines for Europe has brought out a new paper on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe.
It seems that many of the shortcomings came from within the EU, with the biggest issue being the countries’ unilateral actions. For example, slamming shut borders within the bloc caused supply issues, and hoarding.
The EMA couldn’t deal with the dramatic increase in demand for ICU medicines, while the ECDC was slow to share epidemic forecasts, which didn’t help medicines producers with predictions.
The upshot is that Medicine for Europe has now called on the Commission to create an EU pandemic preparedness plan so Europe won’t have to face the same obstacles in future.
For example, it has suggested diversifying supply chains and changing reimbursement and procurement policies, more regulatory flexibility, and more digital reporting.
Second wave fears
Much has been said about second waves and local breakouts, not least in the last couple of days after the UK - following in the footsteps of the likes of Germany - saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the rowing back of many restrictions and the re-opening of a wide range of business permissible from 4 July.
Realistically, there will be more local lockdowns and if scientists are to be believed there will certainly be some kind of a second wave. So some governments and, of course, many members of the general public are understandably a little nervous.
Europe’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides this week said that the Commission will publish a communication on the second wave on 15 July.
Worryingly, some member states that didn’t get hit the worst by the coronavirus initially, such as Romania and Bulgaria, are now reporting localized outbreaks.
At the same time, Greece and Denmark are warning about possible second waves, while Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa has imposed some stricter rules.
But as mentioned, Germany’s facing its own new challenges, with numerous localised outbreaks. EAPM’s supporter and German MEP Peter Liese has said he was “shocked” when his constituency was hit.
Liese thinks some indoor venues should be closed. For example, cinemas and restos. Also, he feels that citizens should be unable to use places such as nonessential shops for longer than 15 minutes,. Masks should be an absolute requirement, he believes.
“If we’re not careful, we will have a general increase,” he said.
While we have the spotlight on Liese, it is rumoured that while his party the EPP will get the chair of the European Parliament’s Cancer Committee, he doesn’t want the job personally.
The Renew Europe party will get the lead rapporteur role on the Cancer Plan - probably in the person of MEP Véronique Trillet-Lenoir.
Immunity questions for vaccines
The last item today involves vaccines. And it turns out that vaccine developers don’t know the level of immunity needed to protect people against coronavirus. This means that it is difficult to estimate their version of a vaccine’s success chances, with the higher level of immunity needed meaning the fewer number of vaccine efforts will be successful.
This latter observation came from Imperial College’s Robin Shattock while he was addressing the UK’s House of Lord’s Science and Technology Committee earlier in the week.
He said: “I think our chances are high, but I think we shouldn’t be over hyping the potential success.”
University of Oxford Professor Sarah Gilbert however said that it depends on the purpose of the vaccine. She said: “The aim is to protect the population and that doesn’t mean that the vaccination has to be 100% effective. Even with the 50% efficacy, we could actually go a long way to protect the population.”
So that’s all for this week. Look out for our monthly newsletter which is due shortly and, once again, do take this late opportunity to register for Tuesday’s virtual conference, if you haven’t done so already.
All the best for the weekend and here is the link to register.