New Head of the European Medicines Agency Takes the Helm

By Miranda Greenberg -

November 24, 2020

Emer Cooke, formerly Director with the World Health Organization, began her new role as Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) last week (November 16, 2020). She succeeds Guido Rasi, who completed his second term as Executive Director this month (November 2020).

Ms. Cooke was nominated as Executive Director with a renewable five-year mandate by the EMA’s Management Board in June (June 2020) and is the first woman at the helm of the EMA. She was appointed following her statement to the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety in July (July 2020).

She is the fourth Executive Director of the EMA. Her predecessors were Fernand Sauer (1994-2000), Thomas Lönngren (2001-2010), and Guido Rasi (November 2011 to November 2014 and November 2015 to November 2020).

She has 30 years’ experience in international regulatory affairs, 18 years of which were in leadership roles. She worked for the pharmaceutical unit of the European Commission from 1998 to 2002 and at the EMA between 2002 and 2016, where she held various positions, including Head of Inspections and Head of International Affairs. She was the Director responsible for all medical product-related regulatory activities at the World Health Organization in Geneva between November 2016 and November 2020.

“I take up the role of Executive Director of EMA amid a public health crisis of unprecedented scale,”  she said in a November 16, 2020 statement. “My number one priority will be to drive forward EMA’s response to the pandemic and the work already ongoing to support the development and approval of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.”

She stressed that the agency will also have to tackle other major challenges, including antibiotic resistance, supporting new waves of innovation, and making the most of the opportunities provided by digitalization for medicine discovery and development.

Ms. Cooke also takes over the chairperson position at the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA), which is currently led by the EMA.

Source: European Medicines Agency