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Blackwood returns as new life sciences minister

Replaces James O’Shaughnessy at DHSC

NB

Nicola Blackwood has been appointed as the new minister at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) overseeing the life sciences sector, medicines and 'making a success of Brexit'.

She replaces James O’Shaughnessy in the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the department after he resigned for personal reasons in December.

Blackwood was an MP from May 2010 until June 2017,  and was chairwoman of the Commons’ Science and Technology Select Committee and Minister for public health and innovation, but lost her parliamentary seat in that year’s general election.

She now returns to the department as a member of the House of Lords, via a peerage awarded by prime minister Theresa May. However this move has been criticised by the Opposition party Labour, who accuse the government of abusing the peerage system.

Blackwood's connections with industry have also been under scrutiny, as she has been working in board roles with health and tech companies in the intervening period, including a part-time role at Eagle Genomics and digital doctor service Push Doctor.

One of Blackwood’s key roles will be in furthering the Life Science Sector Deal, which was updated in December, which includes $500m of government investment, £1bn in private sector investment, and a number of measures aimed at creating a more joined-up life sciences ecosystem in the UK.

The Sector Deal provided a boost for UK life sciences, including announcements of a £1bn investment in R&D from UCB over five years, plus £200m more from a number of companies including GW Pharma. Roche, Celgene, IQVIA and Oxford Biomedica.

Her role also includes looking at ways in which the sector can make the most of Brexit - although the UK's pharma and biotech sector have made it clear they believe there will be very few upsides to exiting the EU.

Indeed, while careful to avoid taking too political a stance, the pharma industry association the ABPI has made it very clear that a no deal Brexit must be avoided at all cost, as this would see the UK sector cut adrift in trade and regulatory terms from the rest of Europe.

MPs in the House of Commons will finally have their chance to vote on the Brexit deal this Tuesday, after Theresa May delayed putting it before the House in December.

The Brexit deal is expected to be roundly defeated in the Commons, with rebel Conservative MPs passing amendments this week which will force the prime minister to propose a ‘Plan B’ within three days.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

11th January 2019

From: Healthcare

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