Leading medical organisations in the UK are calling for continued collaboration between researchers in the UK and Europe during and after Brexit as a new reports highlights the value of such partnerships and their benefit to patients.

The report, commissioned by eight leading UK medical organisations*, finds that clinical trials have significantly benefitted from UK and EU researchers working together, especially those for rarer diseases where cross-country trials are essential given the small number of patients to work with.

It also highlights the “leadership role” played by UK researchers in Europe, as reflected by their “extensive membership” of influential scientific committees and panels, as well as that of authorities including the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which acted as Scientific Advice Co-ordinator in at least a fifth of centralised EMA medicine approvals between 2008 and 2016.

The UK’s role as a key trainer of scientists was also emphasised on the back of data showing that around 16,000 students from EU countries are currently enrolled on biomedical courses at higher education institutes in the country, and that around 20 percent of EU nationals trained in the UK went on to take up positions in other European countries.

The UK is also one of the largest recipients of research funding in the EU, while EU and international researchers are key contributors to the quality of UK research, the report stresses.

“As the UK and the EU enter into negotiations to determine the new relationship it’s vital that ensuring collaborations between medical researchers across Europe continue is a priority,” said Cancer Research UK chief executive Harpal Kumar. “By creating an environment that allows the best minds to work together, wherever they are, we will accelerate the life-saving discoveries that will help people across Europe.”

"Our relationship with researchers within the EU is mutually beneficial for both scientific research and patient care,” said Professor Sir Robert Lechler, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences. “The UK must prioritise maintaining and strengthening this valuable symbiotic alliance/partnership as we begin negotiations to leave the EU. This will ensure the best outcome for research, innovation and most vitally, for patients in the UK, Europe and beyond."

“Medical research is a collaborative endeavour,” added Aisling Burnand MBE, chief executive of the AMRC. “The best is done by bringing together the best minds. The future of those vital collaborations must be at the forefront of everyone’s minds during Brexit negotiations.“

*The report – The role of the UK in creating value to EU Science and health – was commissioned by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council, Arthritis Research UK, MQ: Transforming Mental Health, Association of Medical Research Charities, Wellcome, the Academy of Medical Sciences. The research was undertaken by Technopolis.