Britain voted itself out of the European Union, and with this act UK research will soon be also out of EU funding and EU scientists (or any foreign scientists for that matter, given that the central point of the Brexit vote was immigration). Without freedom of movement, there cannot be any access to EU research funding, as Switzerland had to learn after their citizens also bravely voted in their own referendum against immigration in 2014. Thus, with the genie of racism and xenophobia out of the bottle in UK now, it is highly unlikely that the next Tory government will agree to allow foreign work-seekers onto their precious island. This Brexit out of Horizon 2020, ERC and other European research programmes will hurt, because, as the UK scientist and open science activist Stephen Curry mentioned in an interview: “The UK is a net contributor to the EU overall but ‘wins’ in terms of research funding”. While Scotland might find a way out through another vote on independence, England will be stuck where it is.
Maybe this is actually not that bad, given the interesting attitude British authorities and bureaucracy have to clinical research. Their prime concern goes out not towards the public interest or the patients’ wellbeing, but to the financial profits of biotech and pharma industry. All my inquiries about the most basic documentation or permits granted to the INSPIRE clinical trial on trachea-replacement were ignored or outright rejected, with the simple argument that sharing information with me would hurt the business interests of the commercial participants involved. The INSPIRE trial is about transplanting four patients with donor tracheas, which are prior to this to be decellurised and “regenerated” using a “stem cell” approach developed by Paolo Macchiarini (now accused of involuntary manslaughter for his trachea transplant experiments). Macchiarini’s former partner Martin Birchall, laryngology surgeon at the UCL and UCLH in London, is leading this trial (see my detailed analysis here and here), and the company whose interests need the most careful protection by British authorities is Videregen, which seems to imagine the trachea replacement in humans as similar to that of exchanging a car part. Only much more lucrative of course, Birchall himself put the revenue at up to the mouth-watering $740,000 per patient (Culme-Seymour et al, 2016). Continue reading “Brexiting out of EU research and patient rights”