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expert reaction to the Spring Budget

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, presented his Spring Budget 2023 to Parliament today.

Comments specifically on the plans announced for the MHRA:

Prof Penny Ward, independent pharmaceutical physician, and Visiting Professor in Pharmaceutical Medicine at King’s College London, said:

“The announcement today is a reflection of the many partnerships which MHRA have strengthened prior to during and subsequent to our being members of the EU and the European Medicines Agency. The MHRA are traditionally an extremely well regarded regulator which has had very rapid assessment timeframes as a national regulator – generally the fastest assessment times among the EU national agencies – and the enforced timeline of the normal EMA regulatory procedure in fact generally slowed down the timeframe for MHRA to reach a national decision on approvability. The MHRA have always enjoyed good relationships with the EMA – which prior to Brexit was housed in Canary Wharf – the US FDA and the Japanese regulators among others. The announcement today permits the MHRA to set new procedural guidance for its own reviews – which we might expect to revert to being a shorter assessment and decision making timeline to the EMA – and also to permit the MHRA to permit medicines approved by other collaborating agencies to enter the UK market via a procedure known as mutual recognition. I would anticipate over time that the list of trusted regulators might extend to include Australia, New Zealand and Canada, all agencies with which the UK has collaborated extensively. The procedure of mutual recognition does not preclude the UK asking for additional information relevant to UK medical practice if required and it requires assessment of the basis for the decision taken by other agencies so that the regulator retains responsibility in the UK for permitting medicines and devices approved in these territories to be used in the UK. However as the US, EU and Japan are the three largest pharmaceutical markets in the world, companies will focus on the total market size in order the decide where to file first, and this tends to favour earlier submissions in larger markets. As as relatively small national market, this decision enables the UK to allow novel treatments and devices to be used in the UK faster than might be the case if the UK were to insist on a purely national system without acknowledging decisions taken by others. Before Brexit, the UK could only make national decisions for medicine/device applications made on a national basis or to participate in the EMA regulatory system. However since Brexit the UK is free to acknowledge decisions made by non EU agencies if these are appropriate for the UK marketplace. The MHRA is a highly respected regulatory agency with influence across the world for the standard of practice they have worked hard to establish. I look forward to seeing their influence on the development of medicines and devices across the world.”


Prof Sir Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology, Oxford Population Health, University of Oxford, said:

“I am very pleased to see the MHRA given the additional resource it needs to attract, retain and develop the expertise it needs.

“We should look at the opportunities this brings in 2 areas:

  1. With respect to timely approval of treatments that have undergone approval by other regulators:

“The UK is a small market for new products and consequently of lower priority for developers than many other territories, including USA, EU and Japan. The job of the MHRA is to assess the safety and efficacy of medicines. (Decisions about whether they are affordable lie elsewhere.) There are very few issues that are so specific to the UK that they require special assessment. So a default position of adopting an approval that has been issued by another sophisticated regulator such as US FDA or European Medicines Agency makes sense – and frees up resource to focus on medicines that have particular scientific or clinical issues or where approvals in other countries seem inappropriately slow for non-scientific reasons.

  1. The development and evaluation of new treatments in preparation for regulatory submission:

“We also need to look at this in the context of the UK Life Sciences opportunities – making the most of the opportunities to be a leader in the development and evaluation of innovative treatments for some of the most pressing health problems (from targeted treatments for rare, disabling diseases to widely deployable interventions to tackle common disorders such as colorectal cancer, heart disease, depression and dementia).

“Here there is a disconnect between the rhetoric and reality. The ability to initiate and conduct suitably large and efficient clinical trials without placing undue burden on clinicians, patients and the NHS is key. We saw the possibilities in the earliest days of the pandemic (the first protocol for the RECOVERY trial was approved in just a few days and this simple trial went on to show dexamethasone could save lives). But since then there has been a regression to business as before – lengthy delays, excessive demands for complexity – in part driven by an exodus of experienced staff from MHRA. The additional funding should certainly help. But money alone will not be enough.

“There is no doubt that the UK needs a regulator that is fit for the future – one that embraces innovation in clinical trials and accelerates the evaluation and implementation of advances in medical interventions. We don’t need more people doing the more of the same old things.

“We need to move to a future where there is greater exchange of ideas, experience, and skills with the wider world beyond the concrete walls of the regulator. To give some examples, there is more expertise in clinical trial methods, more innovation in data science, and more experience of what it is like to treat or be a patient in need, outside MHRA than there will be inside. I hope that the MHRA will use this additional resource to grow in speed, scale, efficiency and capability by working with the wider community. We need regulation – but we need regulation that is focused on enabling solutions.”


Dr Melanie Lee, CEO, LifeArc, said:

“We are pleased to see support for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to help it accelerate patient access to treatments. The MHRA is a world-leading regulator and we will look forward to the details of new partnerships with trusted international agencies as well as a new, speedier approval process.”


An AstraZeneca spokesperson, said:

“This Budget is a step in the right direction and we look forward to the UK Government going further to create stronger commercial and fiscal conditions to attract major new investment in the face of growing global competition. Specifically for life sciences, the Government must also speedily resolve the problem of the 26.5% revenue levy on innovative medicines used by the NHS.

We also welcome the additional funding for the MHRA and their commitment to bringing the most innovative medicines to patients faster.”


A GSK spokesperson, said:

“The UK has a big opportunity in life sciences, to improve patient care and health outcomes, and support economic growth. Today’s Budget recognises this and includes important measures to help realise this opportunity.

“We welcome the new model and funding for the MHRA to accelerate access to innovative treatments and vaccines for patients and improve the attractiveness of the UK for investment in life sciences research. Giving the MHRA the resources and tools to become a leading global regulator is a key part in capitalising on the UK’s potential in life sciences.

“We also welcome the new scheme on R&D tax credits targeted towards the most research intensive SMEs – this should have a positive impact on the wider UK life science ecosystem.”,MHRA%20to%20receive%20%C2%A310m%20from%20HM%20Treasury%20to%20fast,to%20UK%20patients%20more%20quickly



Declared interests

Prof Martin Landray is CEO of Protas, a not-for-profit organization focussed on enabling smarter clinical trials for common health conditions. He also leads the Good Clinical Trials Collaborative, a broad-based multi-national collaboration that has developed and promotes better policy and regulation for clinical trials. He is joint lead of the RECOVERY trial and Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology at University of Oxford.

His work receives grant funding from commercial, government, charitable and philanthropic sources. He has no personal financial interests in, and receives no personal support from, companies involved in the pharmaceutical, alcohol or tobacco industries.

For all other experts, the nature of this story means everyone quoted above could be perceived to have a stake in it. As such, they are implicit in each person’s affiliation.


Other comments on the Spring Statement:

Prof Dame Anne Johnson PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said:

“Today’s budget rightly recognises that supporting the UK’s life sciences and research and innovation sectors is essential for generating further economic growth.

“Excellence in research and development is vital both for the health of the public and the nation’s economy. The Chancellor has listened to the concerns of R&D-intensive companies following last year’s cuts to their tax credits, announcing today a welcome R&D tax relief rate which rewards our most innovative small and medium sized life sciences companies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as a world-leading regulator, and I am pleased that the Chancellor will continue to support its role in ensuring that the UK is both an attractive place to develop new treatments and that these reach patients as quickly as possible.

“The new investment zones announced today present an exciting opportunity for driving productivity in medical science across all regions of the UK. These proposals will play to our academic strengths, with the explicit connection of the zones to local research institutes and universities.

“While we await further detail on the promising announcements from this budget, I hope that the Government will take the earliest opportunity to provide an update on the pressing issue of Horizon Europe. The scientific community has repeatedly highlighted that full UK participation in Horizon Europe is the best possible outcome for research and for the health of people everywhere.”


Prof Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Sciences, University of Oxford, said:

“Capturing CO2 and reinjecting it back underground is, short of a global ban, the only proven way of stopping fossil fuels from causing further global warming. So £20bn over 20 years for CCUS is obviously welcome news for the planet, but why does it have to be government money at all? One of the main beneficiaries of successful CCUS development are the owners of fossil fuel assets, who will make a great deal more than £20bn in profit over the next 20 years. If the government had the nerve to make safe and permanent disposal of CO2 a licensing condition of the extraction and import of fossil fuels into the UK, there would be no need for any government subsidy – and the industry would get to net zero a lot faster than relying on the taxpayer to foot the bill.”


Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said:

“Today’s Budget rightly puts science and technology at the heart of the UK’s economic future.

“After a prolonged period of uncertainty, the Government urgently needs to deliver on its pledge to associate to Horizon Europe, and set out a longer-term, cross-party plan for science. This is vital to restore confidence among global research talent and investors that they should build their futures in the UK.

“We do have internationally recognised strengths in a range of sectors expected to transform society and the economy in the coming decades. The pledged reforms to R&D tax credits and support for fledgling companies to become globally competitive are important. Sustained government investment is also needed in basic research and discovery to fuel the innovations of tomorrow.

“We would very much welcome universities and research institutions being central to plans for the 12 UK investment zones unveiled today. Developing research and innovation clusters around regions’ existing research strengths is key to increasing the prosperity in parts of the UK that have suffered from historic under investment. Having the right skills in the right place will also be integral to the Government’s levelling up and science superpower ambitions.”


Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser, UK Research and Innovation chief executive, said:

“I welcome the Government’s sustained focus on research, innovation and technology. This is critical to improving lives and communities across the UK. Through increased, long-term public investment and the clear Science and Technology Framework, Government is fostering the thriving R&D system that the UK needs to prosper.”


Dr Steve Smith at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, said:

“Carbon capture and storage will be necessary for net zero. So £20bn is good news, and a big step up from the £1bn previously allocated. It needs to be accompanied by swift government decisions in three areas: first, what business model it will create to make carbon capture a going concern; second, how to ensure permitting doesn’t hold up construction unnecessarily; and third, how to bring local communities on board and give them the skills to help them thrive.”


Prof Daniele Faccio at the University of Glasgow, Chair in Emerging Technologies at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“The recent publication of the UK Quantum National Strategy lays out an ambitious plan to consolidate the UK’s leading position in the area of quantum technologies. We are currently in a very active phase of international research activity, with nearly weekly newspaper headlines talking of the latest quantum breakthrough. This is on the one hand the fruit of a strategic investment on behalf of governments and funding agencies worldwide and on the other, on a natural trend that we are seeing in the sciences where the pace of innovation can be very rapid. We shouldn’t forget that the UK was the first to lead the way in terms of strategic national investment in quantum technology through the UK National Quantum Technology Programme (NQTP) that started in 2014 as a £1bn, 10-year partnership between government, academia and industry. As this phase moves towards its end, we can see the clear benefits of the programme, partly through those newspaper headlines and of course, mainly through the actual impact in terms of growth in the industry sector and the world-leading role played by the UK research institutions. 

“The new Quantum National Strategy is very timely and will give UK academia and industry the confidence and backing needed to continue to invest with clear indications of the priority areas that have emerged from the NQTP, including quantum computing, navigation position and timing (PNT), imaging and sensing and skills. The skills agenda is particularly important as the science, the innovation and the leadership are driven by people. We have seen announcements that the current demand for quantum scientists and innovators outstrips the availability by 3-to-1. Life as a quantum scientist/entrepreneur is exciting, multifaceted and has many different entry points, making it a potential attractor for a very diverse workforce.

“Related to this point, the Strategy explicitly mentions the UK strengths in artificial intelligence, space and engineering biology to which we could also add healthcare and pharmacology, which all have huge potential for integration with quantum technologies and make the UK a unique and world-leading high-technology ecosystem.”


Prof Franco Sassi, Professor of International Health Policy and Economics at Imperial College Business School, said:

“Alcohol prices have been rising by around 5% on average, in the year to January 2023, while food and non-alcoholic beverage prices have increased at least three times as fast. This means that alcohol has become relatively more affordable than other food and beverage products, and the alcohol duty has less impact on consumer choices because of the freeze currently in place. By increasing rates of alcohol duty relief on draught products, the government is providing new opportunities for accessing alcoholic beverages at relatively cheap prices. This defeats one of the main purposes of alcohol taxes, which is to contain the harmful effects of alcohol on people’s health. The announced policy may be saving pubs, but it will cost lives.”


Nicola Perrin, Chief Executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), said:

“It’s positive to see the Chancellor, in today’s budget, recognising the importance of speeding up patient access to treatments, while maintaining robust safety standards. We welcome the announcement of additional resource for MHRA to develop a sustainable approach. It is vital that patients are able to access innovative new treatments quickly and safely. We look forward to seeing further details.”

“We’re pleased to see the publication of the Vallance Review, as digital technologies have significant applications to research and improving patient outcomes. However, its recommendations must be implemented with public trust and data security at the heart of any decisions about access and linkage of public data.”


Dr Daniel Rathbone, Assistant Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), said:

“I am pleased that once again science and innovation are at the heart of the Government’s plans for the economy. Lives and livelihoods will be improved by science and innovation through investment zones, R&D tax credits for cutting edge businesses, and investing in future technologies.

“However, I am disappointed about the continued silence on the £1.6bn of R&D funding taken back by the Treasury last month, and when the money will be returned to the science budget. CaSE will be scrutinising the details of this Budget to establish where the money for the investments announced will be coming from.”


Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“We are delighted by the announcement of a £2.5 billion ten-year investment in the Plan for Quantum. This is important for enabling continued innovation in a highly significant emerging technology where the UK has many world-class strengths and demonstrates that the government appreciates the competitive advantage of such long-term commitment in strategic technologies, a very welcome change from previous shorter-term plans. The Academy will support the engineering and technology community both in making the most of this commitment and in building the case for similar long-term investment plans in other critical technologies that can deliver improved resilience, security, economic opportunity and well-being, including artificial intelligence, communications, engineering biology, and energy systems for Net Zero. The commitment to invest £900 million to build an exascale supercomputer and establish a new AI Research Resource are also welcome initiatives for the artificial intelligence sector. We are pleased to see further recognition of the UK’s research in artificial intelligence through the newly announced AI Prize and commercialisation support for AI innovation. Additionally, we welcome a holistic approach to supporting low carbon energy, and look forward to contributing to discussions on how nuclear plays a role alongside renewables, decarbonised grid systems and other energy technologies.”


Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“The announced investment zones and funding for R&D projects are welcome efforts to stimulate investment in engineering, science and technology across the UK and boost local innovation ecosystems. With hotspots of engineering in many regions of the UK, more than 8.1 million people are part of the nation’s engineering economy, generating an estimated £645bn gross value added to the UK economy each year – equivalent to 32% of the country’s economic output. Engineering innovation is integral to achieving a growing and inclusive economy.

“The sustained focus from the government on the importance of engineering innovation to society, following the recent creation of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and the Science and Technology Framework, signals promising support for achieving the UK’s science and technology ambitions with Horizon Europe negotiations ongoing. Continuing to invest and implement policies designed to strengthen UK innovation will help to spread the benefits of research and industry more evenly across the country and support the UK’s diverse engineering talent.”


Beatrice Barleon, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at EngineeringUK, said:

“We welcome the Government’s ongoing commitment to make the UK a science and technology superpower and the ambitions of growing the economy, meeting our Net Zero targets, and unlocking the potential of every region.  We also welcome the acknowledgement that to achieve this, businesses, including engineering and technology businesses, urgently need a larger skills and workforce base, now and in the future.”

“However, the measures on childcare as well as the focus on those over 50 will not, on their own, solve the wider skills and workforce shortages in the engineering and technology sector in the long-term. We urgently need greater investment in and focus on STEM education, STEM teachers, careers provision and vocational pathways for young people.”

“Our Fit for the Future Inquiry into engineering and technology apprenticeships will be reporting later this year and we hope to work closely with the Treasury to explore how they can support growth across the engineering profession.”


Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said:

“Harnessing the UK’s expertise in research and innovation will be central to creating the jobs, productivity and growth we need. The Government’s proposals for investment zones will allow our world-leading universities to draw on their talent and the UK’s excellence in research to revitalise regional economies.

“However, collaboration is crucial to this ambition so we hope that alongside these proposals the Government will move swiftly on finalising the UK’s association to Horizon Europe, which will enable us to collaborate on an unrivalled scale, continue to attract the best talent, and signal our ambitions to lead the world in science.

“While there were some important measures announced to support those affected by the rising cost of living, it is disappointing that students have once again been left out of the conversation. A survey of 8,800 students found they were on average living only £2 above the poverty line and while universities are providing millions of pounds worth of support, more help is urgently needed from the Government.”


Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said:

“Over 370,000 people are facing agonising waits for time-sensitive heart care, and the waiting list just keeps growing. It’s disappointing not to see anything further announced for this most urgent challenge.

“While some measures announced in the Budget will help with NHS staff retention issues, they do not go nearly far enough to address the acute NHS workforce crisis. The upcoming Government workforce plan will need major new investment to be a success, and we did not hear this in the Budget – this was a missed opportunity.”


Prof Julia Black, President of the British Academy, said:

“The UK has a thriving research and innovation environment – presenting enormous economic, social and cultural benefits – and the humanities and social sciences are among its greatest strengths. We are pleased that in today’s Budget the Chancellor reiterated his ambition for research and development as a long-term source of UK prosperity.

“We would now like to see the Government make real progress against its ambitious commitments, starting with the right level of investment in research and innovation and support for the UK’s long-term participation in global research networks. 

“As a priority, the Government should secure the UK’s association to Horizon Europe. This will help unlock the UK’s potential and make a tangible difference to peoples’ lives, delivering economic security and a better understanding of the world we share.”


Prof Aoife Foley, Chair in Net Zero at the University of Manchester, said:

“The chancellor’s timely intervention on reducing costs for prepayment meters is much-needed to help the most vulnerable households.

“But there is a limit to how these energy subsidies can continue without significant borrowing impacts, which is why investment in green energy is so critical to the economy. Prioritising green and sustainable energy will make us less reliant on imported natural gas and petroleum and will ensure the UK’s long-term energy and economic security and resilience.  

“It is disappointing not to see greater incentives for solar and wind power and energy efficiency schemes for agriculture. Speaking to distributed grid operators, repowering onshore wind and scaling solar power are both really important for security and network planning.  

“Implementing cross-cutting energy plans quickly and effectively is vital to our economic vitality, success and longevity in a carbon constraint global economy. Prices are going to remain volatile, and consumers and businesses are likely to keep facing higher costs as energy wholesale prices will remain twice 2021 levels and carbon prices are impacting base costs, so it is important that we get this medium to longer-term plan for energy security in place as soon as possible.”


Prof Stuart Haszeldine, professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“A defining moment doesn’t happen often. But the Spring Budget 2023 will likely be viewed from mid-century as the time when the UK fully committed to Carbon Capture and Storage. 

“The UK is now poised to develop multiple types of capture, with CO2 supplied from blue hydrogen and gas power, to fertiliser production and biomass combustion – and storage in several of the diverse geologies of the North Sea and Irish Sea. Opening up for future expertise and global provision designed and operated to high quality UK regulations – all very good indeed.

“But there are still warnings to be considered. How do the Danes and Norwegians progress their projects from start to first injection in two-to-four years, when the UK takes nine years?

“And how can a market supply of CO2 to storage be guaranteed into the future, whilst also decreasing state subsidy to make CCS become business as usual?  An answer surely lies in the Carbon TakeBack Obligation, where any fossil fuel producer or importer is tasked by government to store an ever increasing percentage of the CO2 arising from the use of their product.”


Tom Grinyer, chief executive of the Institute of Physics, said:

“It’s really good to see the Chancellor acknowledging again the crucial role scientific research and innovation needs to play in growing the UK’s economy, building a prosperous future and remaining a science superpower. Physics-powered businesses and innovators will be at the heart of this effort.

“Investments in nuclear, carbon capture, AI and the hugely important £2.5bn quantum funding package are the sort of backing our physics innovators need to set the UK on the path back to growth. But they also need to come with convincing solutions to the growing skills crisis in physics and an urgent answer to whether UK innovators will be able to rely on our membership of the EU Horizon funding programme.”

“The R&D tax reliefs announced today can also play their part. They can have a crucial role in securing the UK’s position as a science superpower and innovation nation, are a vital element of public support for private-sector R&D and provide much needed certainty to businesses making investment decisions. It is important these provisions are as broad and generous as possible if they are to have a lasting impact across the economy.” 


Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said:

“This is a huge step forward for UK energy security and net zero. Nuclear’s inclusion in the UK Green Taxonomy is a vital move, following the example set by other leading nuclear nations, and will drive crucial investment into new projects, making it cheaper and easier to finance new reactors.

“The launch of Great British Nuclear with powers to select sites for new projects will make nuclear deployment much more efficient and give the supply chain a clear pipeline to work from. The SMR selection will put us back in the global race, creating opportunities for home-grown technology and others to bring jobs and investment to the UK and helping us capitalise on export opportunities in a massive global market.

“We look forward to working with Great British Nuclear on delivering a fleet of large and small scale stations to make us a clean energy powerhouse of the twenty-first century.”


Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, the Commons Science and Technology Committee Chair, said: 

“I welcome the big focus on science and technology in this Budget. Sustained investment in research and development is key to boosting economic growth. That is why today I called for a rapid resolution of the question of the UK’s association with Horizon Europe.

“I am pleased the Government has announced further backing for quantum technologies. The Science & Technology Committee will be launching an inquiry tomorrow to scrutinise the effectiveness of the Government’s quantum plan to date and will now include the £2.5 billion investment announced today and how the UK compares globally in this strategically important area.

“I also welcome the publication of Sir Patrick Vallance’s review on pro-innovation regulation of emerging technologies. My committee will look carefully at the review’s findings, especially as we continue our inquiry into the regulation of AI. We hope to question Sir Patrick on his conclusions and recommendations before he departs as Chief Scientific Adviser.”


Prof Adrian Bull, BNFL Chair in Nuclear Energy and Society at the Dalton Nuclear Institute, University of Manchester, said:

“The Chancellor’s words on nuclear give a positive message, but it’s more like a ‘greatest hits’ compilation from the past, rather than anything new.

“Confirming nuclear’s environmental credentials will certainly help attract investment – but it’s only stating the obvious. Nuclear is as low-carbon as renewables and should always have been treated that way.

“He’s announced ‘Great British Nuclear’ – which is about the fourth time it’s been announced. What we need is to see it actually come into being, and to see a clear plan of what it will do.

“And – bizarrely – he launched ‘the first competition for small modular reactors’ (SMRs). Maybe there is nobody left in Whitehall who remembers the (abortive) SMR competition which George Osborne launched back in 2015, promising an SMR in the UK in the 2020s. Let’s just hope this one actually leads to something!”


Steve Bates OBE, CEO of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA), said:

“An enhanced tax relief for R&D-intensive SMEs is a huge boost for biotech companies across the UK developing new medicines and improving healthcare for patients. Our research intensive industry is a key growth area for Britain’s economy. The Chancellor is rightly focusing UK taxpayer support to enable life science entrepreneurs to crowd in more private investment, help keep the UK at the cutting-edge of international science, and create new high value jobs across the UK.”


Tony Hickson, Chief Business Officer for Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Horizons, said:

“The government’s decision to revisit the R&D tax credits for SMEs in the Budget is a shot in the arm to oncology start-ups across the UK. At a time when they are facing tough economic challenges, early stage companies need this vital support to accelerate discoveries from the lab to the clinic.

“Spin-out companies play a vital role in translating Cancer Research UK-funded research from the lab into life-saving treatments. Today’s decision by the Chancellor is a vote of confidence in the UK’s outstanding life sciences start-up community, creating the opportunities needed to develop new tests, medicines and advances in healthcare for cancer patients.”



Declared interests

The nature of this story means everyone quoted above could be perceived to have a stake in it. As such, our policy is not to ask for interests to be declared – instead, they are implicit in each person’s affiliation.

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