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Brexit: ‘Now we must set up UK life science bureau after EU’s Medicine Agency quit Canary Wharf’

PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:43 23 October 2020

Tower Hamlets councllor Rabina Khan calls for 'UK life science bureau' to be set up at Canary Wharf. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets councllor Rabina Khan calls for 'UK life science bureau' to be set up at Canary Wharf. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A “life science bureau” to replace the European Medicines Agency which quit east London after the Brexit referendum should be set up at Canary Wharf.

European Medicine Agency that quit its Canary Wharf HQ over Brexit. Picture: GoogleEuropean Medicine Agency that quit its Canary Wharf HQ over Brexit. Picture: Google

It would help bridge Britain’s inequality gap and reduce the East End’s soaring rates of child poverty laid bare by the pandemic crisis.

That’s the call this week by Tower Hamlets councillor Rabina Khan in her campaign for the government to “level up” on inequality by starting four miles or so downriver from the Westminster bubble.

“We saw the departure of the Medicine Agency with 900 job losses at Canary Wharf,” she tells the East London Advertiser. “Add to this the lost trade generated from thousands of business visits.

“Now the possibility of the UK ending up with a ‘Brexit no deal’ means huge uncertainty that could face life sciences with costly tariffs for UK pharmaceuticals.”

Cllr Rabina Khan... Cllr Rabina Khan... "If the government wants to 'level up' inequality that the pandemic has laid bare then it needs only start a few miles east of Westminster." Picture: Mike Brooke

Replacing the EU medicine agency by our own UK life science bureau should be set up in the very borough where it took flight over Brexit, Cllr Khan urges.

“Tower Hamlets would be the perfect spot to replace the agency,” she says. “It sits between the financial districts of Canary Wharf and The City.”

She uses the “science research” argument to push her equality campaign, with latest child poverty statistics making Tower Hamlets perhaps the worst place to grow up.

“If the government wants to ‘level up’ then it needs only start a few miles east of Westminster,” she suggests. “It could bridge the gap of inequality that the pandemic has laid bare.”

Barts NHS world-beating research at Whitechapel. Picture: Mike BrookeBarts NHS world-beating research at Whitechapel. Picture: Mike Brooke

That would draw in top scientists, investors and industrialists to turn Britain into “a science superpower”.

Both Bart’s NHS trust and Queen Mary University are examples of world-beating research being carried out on our doorstep.

Britain is currently the only nation in the world to have a large-scale “whole genome dataset”, from research into how genetics data is held and used.

It is based on east London’s uniquely diverse population being so close at hand to research facilities at Whitechapel.

Royal London's Whitechapel labs... part of Barts NHS ground-breaking science research. Picture: Mike BrookeRoyal London's Whitechapel labs... part of Barts NHS ground-breaking science research. Picture: Mike Brooke

Barts now has one of the richest datasets in Europe because of that diversity. Around 32,000 patients from east London are involved in Barts Life Science clinical trials.

But such advantage could ebb in the aftermath of Brexit unless we keep pace with global collaboration, a warning sounded by Lord Oates. He stresses how critical it is that we stay at the forefront of research, with the loss of the Medicine Agency and soon EU research funding.


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