Sparks fly as Rawlins joins biotech board

Former Chairman of NICE and current President of the Royal Society of Medicine, Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, has been appointed to the board of Intra-Cellular Therapeutics, a biopharma company focused on the development of therapeutics for CNS disorders.

Commenting on his appointment, he said, “I am delighted to join the ITI Board of Directors.  It comprises a group of individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of medical science, biotech entrepreneurship and the development of drugs serving unmet medical needs,” while Sharon Mates, company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer added, “His expertise in the cost-effectiveness of new pharmaceuticals and other issues in health economics will be invaluable to Intra-Cellular Therapies. I look forward to working closely with Michael as we transition our clinical programs through late-stage development and commercial approval.”

However, writing in the Financial Times, Andrew Jack comments on how soon this appointment was after completing his term with NICE at the end of March, particularly given the current climate of concern over “revolving doors” between senior positions in regulators and industry. Rawlins told the FT that he would have no part in any discussions between Intra-Cellular and NICE. NICE has a policy on conflicts of interest, but this does not cover the period after retirement, while the fact that he was not a civil servant means this is not covered by the government’s senior appointments commission. Jack quotes Tim Reed, head of Health Action International, who said: “I’m surprised. Sir Michael is one of the good guys. He’s been a staunch defender of rational use of medicines and I hope he remains so.”

The pharma sector is particularly vigilant for potential conflicts of interest following the case of Thomas Lönngren, former Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency, who joined a consultancy firm weeks after stepping down from his EMA role. While this had initially been approved by the EMA, the Agency later placed restrictions on his activities, following public pressure.