Claire Skentelbery, Secretary General of the European Biotechnology Network

In the Brexshit

Well, those bloody idiots in the UK managed to do it – talk themselves from decades of hysteria about straight bananas (entirely fabricated by one B Johnson during his time as a journalist in Brussels) into actually voting to leave.

The UK can now bestride the world once more, free from the shackles of EU tyranny, ready to reassume the economic, social and moral magnificence of its colonial heyday. Look out Zimbabwe, hope you kept all those Rhodesia passports and hey US, they are expecting you back in the same condition in which they left you. Form an orderly queue.


Of course this is great for science, as Britain was ACE at that – no need for any kind of plan there. As I was repeatedly told by Brexit campaigners, science and scientific collaboration just happen, they don’t need any kind of funding and common framework to help it along. The UK certainly doesn’t need any experts, as the whole country was told by the Justice Secretary Michael Gove – so all those pesky Nobel prize winners who said Brexit was a stupid idea can just go back to looking pretty in a lab coat.

The UK currently has a strong sector, but for how much longer, given its 1.7% GDP spent on R&D (OECD) is lower than the EU average, bottom of the G7 and far behind Germany’s 2.8%? EU funding and collaboration is a vital part of that – especially for UK universities, which dominate EU programmes, and the UK will be walking away from that if freedom of movement is compromised. Once you weaken the innovation base, the industry that grows from it will follow, and it is not just about the money, it is about collaboration and ability to lead international research. The UK will be unable to attract great scientists if their career path is limited, regardless of domestic funding levels.


The impact on UK science has already started. Scientists for EU has recorded more than 40 cases of UK university researchers being asked to leave project consortia for H2020 deadlines after June 23, and we can expect a big drop in UK presence in projects, particularly as coordinators. In big companies, planned posts are being relocated into the wider EU, while scientists from mainland Europe are declining job offers. The EMA will pack its bags in London and take with it the skilled commercial regulatory community that has grown up around it, while the planned EU patent court won’t even start. Finally, structural funds to help regions develop better scientific capability are already on hold, even before Article 50 is triggered. Suck it up Wales – you get what you voted for.

National excellence is an international game, especially in science. Being proudly independent/insanely deluded (delete as applicable) comes with a price and the UK does not have the currency to pay the bill.


Insider Appointment

Six months ago, Andrew Witty, long-time CEO of Britains largest drug maker GlaxoSmithKline, announced he would retire in 2017. Now, GSK has named Emma Walmsley from inside the company as his successor.

Walmsley, who holds an MA in Classics and Modern Languages from Oxford University, is currently CEO of GSK Consumer Healthcare. She joined GSK in 2010 from L’Oreal where, over the course of her 17-year career, she held a variety of marketing and general management roles in the UK, Europe and USA. From 2007 she was based in Shanghai as General Manager, Consumer Products for L’Oreal China. In 2016, she became a non-executive director of Diageo plc. 

Walmsley will join the GSK Board of Directors from 1 January 2017.

© GNA Biosolutions

Making a profit

German molecular diagnostics specialist GNA Biosolutions GmbH has appointed Frank Krieg-Schneider as its Managing Director and CEO. Krieg-Schneider holds a PhD in molecular genetics from Mainz University and has spent his working life at Qiagen.

There, he established the diagnostic sample preparation product range, and later defined the strategy and product roadmap for the molecular diagnostics and point of care markets. He held various positions at Qiagen, most recently VP, Global Head of Strategic Alliances and OEM. 

© Gyros

Union builder

Swedish Gyros Protein Technologies AB, which was formed in spring by merging nanoliter-scale immunoassay expert Gyros AB and peptide synthesis instrumentation and reagent provider Protein Technologies Inc., has a new chair. Frank Witney took over as Chairman of the Board of Directors in June.

Witney, who holds a doctorate in molecular and cell biology from Indiana University, has held several leadership positions over the last quarter century. Most recently, he was President and CEO of Affymetrix before it was taken over by Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2016. Prior to this, Witney was President and Chief Executive Officer of Dionex, which was also bought up by Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2011. His previous experience includes stints at PerkinElmer, Packard Biosciences, and Bio-Rad Laboratories.


Bioelectric pro

Galvani Bioelectronics, the developer of bioelectronic medicines launched by GlaxoSmithKline and Alphabet’s life science play Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) in early August, will have a bio­electronic visionary on board. Moncef Slaoui, who expedited GSK investments in the field of bioelectronics, will be the chairman of the new company’s Board of Directors.

Slaoui currently serves as GSK’s Chairman of Global Vaccines and previously was Chairman of GSK R&D. He holds a PhD in Molecular Biology and Immunology from Brussels University and was a professor of Immunology at the Belgian University of Mons. He is a member of the PhRMA Foundation Board of Directors, National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee to the Director, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization Board of Directors.

© Pharnext

Clinical development know-how

French biopharma company Pharnext has appointed René Goedkoop as its new Chief Medical Officer. He joins the neurodegenerative disease specialist from Swiss Shogu Consulting SarL.

Goedkoop worked in start-up and large biopharmaceutical companies such as EryDel, Centocor, Eli Lilly, Serono, Modex or Apoxis, and directly interacted with key regulatory agencies (FDA, EMA, Korea, Japan and China). As an independent consultant, he conducted due diligences and helped develop business plans for de novo biotech companies for venture capital investors. He holds an M.D. from the University of Amsterdam.