On 20th November 2017 the EU’s 27 European affairs ministers, excluding the UK, voted to move the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) headquarters from London to Amsterdam. The relocation is expected to begin immediately and finish by 30th March 2019.
19 cities in the EU put forth bids to be the new host. Amsterdam beat competition from 18 cities which included contenders such as Copenhagen, Milan and Bratislava to outsiders such as Bucharest and Sofia. As a result of the UK leaving the EU, the decision for the new location of the EMA was made by closed ballot votes from each EU member state. Six criteria were laid out by the EU to judge the bids: the city’s ability to get the agency up and running efficiently, transport accessibility, school places and job opportunities for spouses.
After the first round of voting, Milan (25 votes), Copenhagen (20 votes) and Amsterdam (20 votes) progressed to the second round of voting. Bratislava received 15 votes and Barcelona had 12 votes, meaning they finished just outside the top three.
The second round of voting saw Milan (12 votes) and Amsterdam (9 votes) proceed into the third round of voting.
Milan and Amsterdam were tied with 13 votes each in the final round. Amsterdam then went on to win the final vote through drawing of lots.
EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi stated that “Amsterdam ticks many of our boxes … It offers excellent connectivity and a building that can be shaped according to our needs. I am very grateful that the Member States took into account our requirements for business continuity and gave priority to the protection of public and animal health”.
Our view at Regulis is that this is a really good outcome for EU medicines regulation. The Dutch Medicines Evaluation Board are a well-regarded regulatory agency and the Netherlands was the preferred choice for EMA workers which hopefully means staff loses from the agency will be about as low as they could be.
It took less than three hours to decide the new location of the EMA, but the move will undoubtedly cause disruption. The EMA currently employs 900 people in Canary Wharf in London, and even a move to the staff’s preferred city could cause some workers to quit; 19% of staff are expected to resign rather than move. However, the EMA stated that a move to a less popular city could have prompted “a public health crisis” with permanent damage” to the European system of drug approval.
Timing for the move is tight, especially since the EMA’s new home is not yet complete. So all eyes will be seeing how it progresses and what impact the move has on the EMA’s activities. The EMA and the Netherlands will start their collaboration by creating a joint governance structure to guide and oversee the relocation project. A monitoring chart will be available in early December, on the EMA website, that will track the progress of the relocation. This ensures stakeholders and the public have full visibility of the relocation project. The EMA headquarters move has been decided, however how the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will interact with the EMA in the future is yet to be understood.
To read more about the relocation of the EMA, please click here.