Greetings, colleagues – welcome to the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update, and look sharp – the B1MG meeting takes place tomorrow (21 October), so now is the time to register. And a ‘stronger’ European Health Union is horizon, while COVID 19 and Brexit are still making waves, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.
1 Million Genome Stakeholder Coordination Framework meeting
Registration is still very much open for the 1 Million Genome Stakeholder Co-ordination Framework meeting on 21 October. One of the core aims of the initiative is to support the connection of national genomics and data infrastructures, co-ordinate the harmonization of the ethical and legal framework for sharing data of high privacy sensitivity, and give practical guidance for the pan-European co-ordination of implementing genomic technologies in national and European health-care systems.
Earning and retaining the trust of patients, research participants and society at large is paramount for data sharing in genomics and health. Robust policies, and broad participation of different stakeholders in the development of these policies is key to robust frameworks. The discussion tomorrow will deal with these topics.
Attendees will be drawn from key stakeholders from the community whose interaction will create a cross sectoral, highly relevant and dynamic discussion forum. These participants will include healthcare professionals, decision makers, patient organisations, and European umbrella organizations representing interest groups and associations actively engaged in the field of personalised medicine.
Register here and read the full agenda here.
‘Stronger’ European Health Union
In the face of COVID-19, the Commission is proposing to build a stronger European Health Union, notably by strengthening the role of existing agencies and establishing a new agency for biomedical advanced research and development. The coronavirus crisis has shown that the European Union lacks effective tools for combatting emergencies that transcend national borders.
When it comes to health care, there is currently only a minimum level of co-operation at the EU level; member states are responsible for their own health care systems. A divided EU on health issues has shown itself to be troublesome. Think, for example, of the battle between European countries for the last batch of masks, India blocking the export of a possible coronavirus treatment, or Trump using a law of war to make medical equipment available to Americans only.
At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, it was “every man for himself”. Such an approach was both incomprehensible and indefensible when it comes to our health, if you ask me. Now that we are facing a second wave of COVID-19 patients, we should focus on the future and on working together.
The health law and policies adopted within a given territory are based upon the values that society holds central. As such, through its regulatory function, health law and policy formulates, embodies and makes explicit the goals, values and ethics that underpin national health regimes. The WHO envisages health policy as the tool that specifies the health goals of a society, defines a vision for the future and, perhaps most importantly, builds consensus around that vision.
WTO members reject IP rules waiver for coronavirus technologies
World Trade Organization members have rejected a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property rights, patents and other protections for any medical technologies relating to COVID-19. Certain members — including the EU, US and the UK — opposed the waiver. “There is no evidence that intellectual property rights are a genuine barrier for accessibility of COVID-19-related medicines and technologies,” said a UK spokesman.
Coronavirus: EU interoperability gateway goes live
To exploit the full potential of contact tracing and warning apps to break the chain of coronavirus infections across borders and save lives, the Commission, at the invitation by member states, has set up an EU-wide system to ensure interoperability – a so-called ‘gateway'. After a successful pilot phase, the system goes live today with the first wave of national apps now linked through this service: Germany's Corona-Warn-App, Ireland's COVID tracker, and Italy's immuni.
Together, these apps have been downloaded by around 30 million people, which corresponds to two-thirds of all app downloads in the EU.
Single Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “Many member states have launched voluntary contact tracing and warning apps, and the Commission has supported them in making these apps safely interact with each other. Free movement is an integral part of the Single Market – the gateway is facilitating this while helping save lives.”
Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides added: “Coronavirus tracing and warning apps can effectively complement other measures like increased testing and manual contact tracing.
"With cases on the rise again, they can play an important role to help us break the transmission chains. When working across borders these apps are even more powerful tools. Our gateway system going live today is an important step in our work, and I would call on citizens to make use of such apps, to help protect each other.”
Italy and Austria tighten coronavirus restrictions and six-week coronavirus lockdown in Ireland
Italy and Austria have introduced stricter measures to curb the rise in new coronavirus cases. On Sunday (18 October) Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared the latest restrictions on public life, including midnight closing times for bars and restaurants from Monday. Venues could also be forced to close at 9pm in case of large crowds. Conte said: “The strategy is not and cannot be the same as in the spring,” when Italy had one of Europe’s highest death rates from COVID-19 while at the same time paying a high economic price due to the lockdown.
Ireland is imposing a six-week lockdown to suppress the spread of COVID-19 in what its leader called “Europe’s strictest regime”. Prime Minister Micheál Martin announced on Monday night (19 October) in a television address to the nation following days of behind-the-scenes discussions with his public health experts.
Will the EU and UK still be speaking to each other following last week’s son et lumiere? It would appear so - the UK has officially declared its willingness to hold further talks with the EU, walking back from threatening/announcing it was going to leave the table. “I now believe it is the case that Michel Barnier has agreed both to the intensification of talks and also to working on legal texts,” Michael Gove told British MPs, describing the EU’s move as “constructive” and a “reflection of the strength and resolution” shown by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
And that is all for the start of the week – do stay safe and well, and don’t forget to register for the 1 million Genome Stakeholder Co-ordination conference tomorrow (21 October). Register here and read the full agenda here.