EMA mourns passing of Noël Wathion

News 14/08/2023

Noel Wathion, former deputy executive director of the european medicines agency. Photo: agency.png

The European Medicines Agency announces with deep sadness the death of Noël Wathion, its former Deputy Executive Director, on 12 August 2023. 

Our most profound sympathies and condolences go to Noël’s family and friends. He was 66 and leaves behind his wife, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

“Noël stood for everything that is best about EMA and the European Union. He was passionate about public health, he cared about people, and he was deeply committed to the European idea,” said Emer Cooke, EMA’s Executive Director. “We have lost a dear friend, who has touched the lives of so many.”

Mr Wathion retired from EMA in 2021, after an exceptional career of service to public health in the EU, lasting over 30 years, during which he supported five Executive Directors and occupied many different roles and responsibilities, both with in EMA and in a national capacity. A pharmacist by training and a Belgian national, his first connection to EMA was made in 1995 as the Belgian member of the CPMP, the predecessor to EMA’s Human Medicines Committee CHMP. In 1996, he joined EMA as Head of Regulatory Affairs and Pharmacovigilance, and from 2001 to 2009 he served as Head of Post-Authorisation Evaluation of Medicines for Human Use. He became Head of Patient Health Protection (2009-2013) followed by Head of Stakeholders and Communication (2013-2016) and Chief Policy Adviser (2013-2016). 

In 2016, he was appointed Deputy Executive Director and took on the additional role of Chief of Policy. He chaired EMA's Operations and Relocation Preparedness (ORP) Task Force, set up following the United Kingdom's decision to leave the EU to oversee EMA’s handling of the implications of Brexit, as well as EMA’s COVID-19 Steering Group, a leadership group at EMA aiming to support a fast response to the rapidly evolving scientific and regulatory challenges created by the pandemic.

He also played an exceptional role in facilitating collaboration across the European Medicines Regulatory Network and with EMA’s counterparts at the European Commission. 

An adept crisis manager and tough negotiator, he will be remembered for steering EMA successfully through periods of challenge such as Brexit and COVID-19. His PDF icon personal account on EMA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was published recently on EMA’s website.

He will also be remembered as a champion of transparency and public engagement, an area where EMA has led the way worldwide, thanks to his work and commitment.

Noël Wathion: 11 September 1956 - 12 August 2023