MEB staff serve as representatives on a variety of European committees and working groups. One such representative is Ingrid Schellens, Senior Clinical Assessor at the MEB and member of the Scientific Advice Working Party (SAWP) and Emergency Task Force (ETF). The ETF was created in 2022.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has a variety of working groups and other related groups. These groups give advice to the EMA’s scientific committees on issues related to their subject area. “With the creation of the ETF in 2022,” says Ingrid, “There is now a working group dedicated to activities undertaken in preparation for and during an emergency situation relating to public health, such as a pandemic. The ETF is actually a continuation of the COVID-19 Pandemic Task Force. That was set up in March 2020 when the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic.”

“In 2022, we moved into calmer waters with regard to COVID-19. To ensure that, in addition to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are well prepared for other potential pandemics, the scope of the ETF is broader than the tasks assigned to the COVID-19 Pandemic Task Force. This is a positive development, because it will help us be as prepared as we can be for a potential new pandemic. For example, we have been doing work around the Mpox (Monkey pox) outbreak, and providing scientific advice to manufacturers in relation to developing vaccines for various other viral infections.” The fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has faded from everyday life is something Ingrid also noticed in her work for the Scientific Advice Working Party (SAWP). “A high point of 2022 was that half of the SAWP meetings were once again held in person. I think that holding the meetings in Amsterdam adds significant value. Each meeting can last for up to three-and-a-half days, which is a long time to spend in a virtual meeting. You notice that you get more energised by meeting in person. What’s more, after the meeting you can often spend time together discussing and clarifying various subjects.”

The SAWP focuses on scientific advice for medicine developers, including how they can best set up their studies to identify the benefits and risks of medicines as accurately as possible. The SAWP does this work on behalf of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP). “The number of requests for advice received by the SAWP has continued to grow in recent years,” says Ingrid. “But there’s been no expansion in personnel. In addition, a number of members were busy with COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. These factors are part of the reason why we had a backlog at the start of 2022. Thanks to a tremendous effort by the members of the SAWP, we made a substantial dent in the backlog of advice requests in 2022.”

Ingrid is proud of Dutch representation in Europe. “The SAWP is an example of that strong representation. The Netherlands is one of the leading countries in terms of the number of advice requests for which we take responsibility. The Netherlands is also well represented in other working parties.”

Ingrid Schellens, Senior Clinical Assessor

See also: