BioWorld International Correspondent
BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European biotech industry faces another challenge when it gets back from its summer break: educating an entirely new set of senior European Union officials.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the recently appointed president of the European Commission, announced the team in Brussels this week. Also, the commissioners responsible for the issues most closely linked to the fate of the biotech industry are all new.
The key figure will be Günter Verheugen, a former German foreign minister, who becomes commission vice president, responsible for industry. He will be in charge of EU enterprise policy and competitiveness, as well as the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products. The new environment commissioner will be Stavros Dimas, from Greece, who also will be in charge of the European Environment Agency.
Slovenian Janez Potocnik is to be the commissioner for science and research, in charge of the EU's joint research center. Markos Kyprianou, from Cyprus, will be commissioner for health and consumers' protection, heading up the Community Plant Variety Office, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Food Safety Authority. Mariann Fischer Boel, from Denmark, will take over as commissioner for agriculture. Charlie McCreevy will be commissioner for single market issues. And trade issues - including the ongoing battles between the U.S. and the EU on GM products - will be the responsibility of Peter Mandelson, from the UK.
Meanwhile, Brussels-based Emerging Biopharmaceutical Enterprises lobby group has been trying to persuade lower-level officials in the current commission to give a more sensible interpretation to how new pharmaceutical legislation in the EU will be applied to smaller firms. The rules offer cheaper and easier drug-registration facilities via the EMEA to smaller firms, which the industry has welcomed. But the definition of a smaller firm is very restrictive: fewer than 250 employees, turnover of less than €50 million (US$42 million), or a balance sheet of €43 million.
EBE says that companies meeting those criteria are not likely to be taking a medicine to the EMEA, so the provisions might never be used. Biopharmaceutical companies are arguing for an alteration of the definitions.