Amsterdam will host EMA's headquarter
Our expert's opinion
"Hosting the European Medicines Agency’s headquarters comes with a raft of benefits: 900 highly-skilled employees, 36,000 experts visiting each year and an annual budget of €322 million. Amsterdam promisses to be an outstanding host for the governing body of Healthcare in Europe."
- Jorge Alfonso, Associate Consultant
European Medicines Agency will move to Amsterdam
In the end, after three rounds of voting, it came down to a proverbial coin flip between the Dutch capital and an Italian fashion hub. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), charged with evaluating human and animal medicinal products for the European Union, will relocate to Amsterdam after it was selected in a draw of lots between it and Milan. The European Council announced the result on Monday evening after voting had taken place in Brussels. “It’s not very Dutch to be proud of the Netherlands,” says pharmacologist Adam Cohen, who heads the Centre for Human Drug Research in Leiden, the Netherlands. “But I always thought it was the best place for it.”
Among the European Union’s most important scientific agencies, EMA was seen as one of the biggest spoils up for grabs after the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union made its more-than-2-decade-old London location untenable. Set up in 1995, it employs about 900 people and hosts tens of thousands of visitors for hundreds of meetings each year.
Nineteen countries vied to be EMA’s new home, though three later dropped out. Candidate cities produced glossy videos and websites highlighting their international connections, quality of life, and international schools. But as is often the case in the European Union, much political horse-trading was also expected to play a role in the final decision. The council was also voting today on a new home for the European Banking Agency and no country was allowed to host both agencies.
On Monday, the ministers of the 27 countries that will remain in the European Union met in Brussels to cast their votes at the General Affairs Council in a complicated voting process. In the first round, each country had six votes, with three going to the city of first choice, two to the second, and one to the third. After two rounds of voting only Amsterdam and Milan, Italy, advanced to the last round, which ended in a tie (with one country not casting its vote). The two cities were placed on lots in a bowl, and Amsterdam has its drawn.
The move of EMA has raised concerns that it could slow down the approval of new drugs, especially if a lot of staff decide not to move with the agency. But in an assessment by EMA, Amsterdam was one of six candidate cities that met all requirements. It also scored highly in a survey of its employees that EMA undertook. If EMA had ended up someplace other than Amsterdam, it would probably have coped, Cohen says. “But it would have had to cope with a lot more problems regarding travel and language, and losing staff.”
EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi expressed relief: “Amsterdam ticks many of our boxes,” he says in a statement the agency sent out. “It offers excellent connectivity and a building that can be shaped according to our needs.” The agency is scheduled to take up its operations there by 30 March 2019. “Our internal surveys have shown that a large majority of EMA staff would be willing to move with the Agency to Amsterdam,” Rasi said in the statement. “However even in this case, our activities will be impacted and we need to plan for this now to avoid the creation of gaps in knowledge and expertise.”
U.K. medical researchers have not been shy about their unhappingess with this outcome of the Brexit vote. For the United Kingdom the move is bad news, John Hardy, a geneticist at University College London said in a statement to the British Science Media Center in London, and not just because of jobs moving away. “A greater impact will be the tug this exerts on the pharmaceutical companies as they weigh up where to make their clinical research investments,” he argued. “Over time, this is likely to lead to a disinvestment in the UK of pharmaceutical industry jobs and this has been a major source of revenue and employment for the UK.”