Brussels, 11 Mar 2005
Europe must learn to develop a culture of the 'D' in R&D, and needs to do it fast, says a leading international authority on cancer research and treatment.
Speaking at a conference on 10 March organised by the Umberto Veronesi Foundation for the advancement of science, Professor Gordon McVie and fellow speakers also emphasised the necessity for the scientific community to foster dialogue with society.
More efforts need to be made to increase public awareness of the major choices that scientific progress is imposing on society, was the message put across by participants. If the scientific community has the backing of an informed public, this will enable Europe to develop the kind of research-friendly environment that already exists in the US.
Funding is the bottom line in explaining the difference between the EU and the US, explained Professor McVie. 'In the US there is committed government funding, a public health strategy, and the two things that Europe is desperately lacking, namely flexibility and the speed to respond,' commented Professor McVie.
'In Europe in terms of cancer research we do extremely well in basic science yet are way behind in clinical and prevention research. Unlike the EU, the US is always happy to develop innovative products. We need to look at the increasing gap with a sense of urgency,' urged Professor McVie.
'Consider how easy and fast it is to set up a biotechnology start-up in the US. This is what we need to develop in Europe. We need to develop a clear strategy for research, better coordination and the rapid response and flexible system that the US has; and we need to do it fast,' said Professor McVie.
According to Umberto Veronesi, private initiatives have a pivotal role to play in the dissemination of scientific culture and funding of innovative scientific projects. It is therefore essential to develop European-wide incentives in the taxation field to encourage private donations.
'Europe remains an area of high scientific creativity,' concluded Jacques Bernier, the director of the radio-oncology department at Bellinzona in Switzerland. 'We need to develop the individual and collective consciousness of what research is. We need to realise that it is not static and that it is the investment that will offer our grandchildren a better future.'
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