EMA board vote leaves agency leaderless

If aliens land at the European Medicines Agency, they'll have trouble with their usual take-us-to-your-leader request. At its latest meeting, the agency's management board failed to agree on a new chief executive, leaving EMA without a captain at least until autumn, the Financial Times reports. Apparently, neither of the two front-runners was acceptable to enough board members to inspire a majority vote.

Although lack of leadership is never a boon, it could be especially problematic for EMA right now. Its previous exec, Thomas Lönngren, retired at the end of last year, then promptly found himself in the middle of a scandal. He joined a pharma organization, drawing allegations of potential conflicts of interest.

Meanwhile, the agency itself has faced increasing criticism about its governance, the FT says. Various groups have demanded a European parliament audit of the agency. And calls for reform can't be answered until a new chief takes over. But board members apparently questioned the independence of the two top candidates for the job.

"If they had strong leadership in place it would perhaps have been easier to carry through reforms," Olivier Hoedeman of the Corporate Europe Observatory told the newspaper. "But hopefully our concerns will play a role in the selection of a new chair."

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