AT A GLANCE: Tony Blair calls for 'big push' on biotech

What is the prime minister up to? At the opening of biotech company Amgen’s £100m facility in Uxbridge earlier this month, Tony Blair announced a policy review aimed at keeping UK biotech and pharma competitive. ‘This is the moment we need another push and this is something I would like to do before I part from my office,’ he said.

Oh no, not another part of Blair’s ‘legacy’, surely? Don’t be cynical. He argues that the Government has provided a favourable environment for bioscience over the past ten years – via legislation on animal extremism and supporting stem cell research, for example. Blair made the comments at a roundtable organised by Amgen’s agency Insight Public Affairs, at which representatives of companies such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca were present.

So, there are lobbying opportunities here? Yes, this offers another opportunity to get the voice of biotech heard. Blair has asked Sir David Cooksey to review the progress made since his 2003 report on the challenges for biotech companies. Pharma’s regulatory framework is on the agenda, as are the UK’s place as a desirable destination for clinical trials, and how to get funding from City and government institutions.

Sounds like good news for pharma companies? There’s more. Blair also gave a clear hint that the recent Office of Fair Trading recommendation to scrap the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme – an idea that pharma PROs viewed as a reputational challenge as well as a fiscal one – may not be followed. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, whose PR team launched a media relations offensive following the OFT’s announcement (PRWeek, 28 Feb), described Blair’s comments as ‘encouraging’.

But isn’t Blair yesterday’s man, meaning this review will be quietly shelved after he leaves Number 10? It’s true that the PM will be seeking alternative employment this summer, but Cooksey has a good route into Blair’s likely successor, Gordon Brown. Cooksey is a former chairman of the Audit Commission, and the Chancellor trusted him last year with a review of institutional arrangements for the new single fund for health research (announced in the Budget).

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