March 14, 2017

Lord David Prior of Brampton to Keynote SynBioBeta London

Lord David Prior

We are proud to have Lord David Prior of Brampton as a keynote speaker for SynBioBeta London 2017.

Lord Prior was recently appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in December 2016, a position he has earned by successfully navigating through business, government, health and education. Through his career, Lord Prior was an investment associate with Lehman Brothers and Lazard Freres, a senior executive with British Steel, the chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and is the governor of multiple schools, including the Jane Austin and Charles Darwin schools. He began his political career by serving as a Member of Parliament for North Norfolk in 1997, and went on to become the deputy chairman and CEO of the Conservative Party.

Lord Prior’s previous appointment was as the Minister for the National Health Service Productivity, underneath the Department of Health. His new appointment as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State expands his responsibilities to include national industrial strategy and policy, especially regarding technology, life sciences, and infrastructure. Lord Prior’s new appointment comes at a rather tumultuous moment, however, due to Brexit.

As a result of Brexit, the UK must figure out a way to remove itself from the EU. There is internal debate within the government whether to push for a hard or a soft Brexit, which essentially represents the degree to which the UK will separate from the EU. For example, the UK is currently a member of the European Medicines Agency, which defines and imposes medicines regulations and allows for a single authorization across all 28 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. If the parliament decides on a hard Brexit, the UK would have to leave the EMA, which is currently housed in London. If they decide on a soft Brexit, the UK would maintain membership in the EMA, classified similarly to Iceland and Norway, however they would lose their right to contribute to how the EMA is run. Ultimately, however, the final shape of Brexit is largely dependent on the EU member states. While this would certainly cause a tremendous burden on the industry by increasing cost and logistical complexity, Lord Prior retorts, “The fact is the world is full of change, and business doesn’t like change. The message to business and industry is you better get used to it, because there is an awful lot of change going on. If you take [the current situation in Europe] into context, the UK doesn’t feel all that risky to me.”1

Lord Prior remains optimistic that Brexit can be an opportunity for the UK and for its Life Science Industry. For example, this could be an opportunity for the UK Government and Pharma companies to craft a stand-alone regulatory system de novo. Regardless of the plan for Brexit, the government must have it by the end of March 2017 before Article 50 goes into effect, which will officially begin the 2 year separation process of the UK from the EU. This is the context within which Lord Prior is currently working, and as Health minister, Lord Prior and Business minister Jo Johnson are tasked with leading the life science sector through this maze.

Lord Prior foretells of “a number of significant, strategic investments planned in the UK by big pharma companies which are planned over the next six months.” He also confirmed that the core goal of the Accelerated Access Review, a strategy to speed up the access to innovative drugs, devices and diagnostics for NHS patients, would be to promote and accelerate 4-6 major transformative medicines, medical devices, or digital technologies. Lord prior confirmed that the life sciences industrial strategy will be unveiled this spring.  His keynote address to SynBioBeta London will likely focus on the specific implementations of the strategy to instill confidence in and to present opportunities presented by the UK’s Brexit transition.