Opinion | Pfizer’s pursuit of AstraZeneca: the Algerian scientific community should take note

ByYoucef Mehellou

Opinion | Pfizer’s pursuit of AstraZeneca: the Algerian scientific community should take note

Over the last few weeks, the biggest story in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors has largely been that of Pfizer’s chase of AstraZeneca. In fact, Pfizer, one of the largest American pharmaceutical companies, continuous attempts to buy AstraZeneca, one of the largest UK pharmaceutical companies, has attracted a lot of interests from politicians in both sides of the Atlantic. Leaving the politics of this story aside, the scientific community in UK has been rattled by this story and this is what the Algerian scientific community should learn from.

As soon as Pfizer’s initial bid to buy AstraZeneca became public, leading scientific organisations and figures in the UK registered their concern about such a takeover. Their reasons for concern were rather clear. They stated 1) Pfizer’s poor record in takeovers, and 2) their fear of Pfizer closing down research and development (R&D) sites in the UK leading to loss of jobs and competitiveness of the UK’s R&D sector. With this in mind, the UK’s scientific community acted. What is most interesting in this is that independent scientific organisations came together and issued statements highlighting their position from Pfizer’s takeover attempts of AstraZeneca. Such statements include that issued jointly by the Royal Society of Chemistry, Biochemical Society, Society of Biology and the British Pharmacological Society (1) as well as the Wellcome Trust’s statement (2). These two statements show the ability of independent scientific organisations to raise concern and defend their interests and the interests of the scientific community they represent.

Although such efforts may not influence the outcome of Pfizer’s pursuit of AstraZeneca, they certainly have focused the light on this story resulting in the involvement of politicians in order to protect the interests of the UK’s scientific community by ensuring R&D sites remain operational in the UK and job losses, if any, are kept to a minimum. This is the lesson that the Algerian scientific community should learn from. No one will protect the interests of Algerian scientists and science in Algeria, in general, more than the scientific community itself. Thus, if Algerian scientists believe it is their role to promote science and ensure that it thrives and becomes high in the national agenda, they must pick themselves up, dust themselves down and organise their scientific community.

The first step in this is to have an independent Algerian Academy of Science that acts as an umbrella that brings together all Algerian scientists, engineers, artists…etc. Beyond this, they should also start forming small independent organisations according to research disciplines; e.g. the Algerian Society of Chemistry, Algerian Society of Biochemistry. Although some of these societies may already exist they seem to be largely idle and they need to be restructured and promoted more efficiently so they reach the wider scientific community. It is these kind of societies that can stand up for science in Algeria. The ability of these independent societies in influencing the national scientific agenda should not be underestimated as they indeed form the backbone of the scientific community.

An independent Algerian scientific community made up of independent scientific societies goes hand in hand with the sponsoring of science to form a solid, sustainable and successful national scientific sector.




About the Author

Youcef Mehellou author

Dr. Youcef Mehellou is Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Birmingham, UK. Prior to this, Youcef was a Career Development Fellow at the Medical Research Council (MRC PPU), University of Dundee (UK). Youcef obtained his Ph.D. from Cardiff University (UK) in 2008, which was followed by postdoctoral research work at Arizona State University (USA). He leads anasr.org's Algerian Paper of the Year Awards

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