The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has warned that the U.K. is in danger of losing its world-leading research and development status, a sentiment which was further backed by pharma giants AstraZeneca and GSK.

Britain, according to the ABPI is falling far behind other countries and the rest of Europe in terms of the number of students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – subjects which are pivotal in advancing scientific research in new medicines and vaccines.

The association has placed these highly-skilled roes as being ‘vital’ to the UK’s pharmaceutical and biotech sector and warned of skilled-workers leaving the country in masses ‘if the situation is not addressed as a matter of urgency’.

When analysed quantitavely the number of UK undergraduates studying STEM subjects increased by 16% over the last decade but this is far less than other countries as the percentage increase stood at 52% in the EU and a whopping 63% increase outside of the EU.

Specific areas of significant concern were genomics, immunology, bioinformatics and chemoinformatics as well as clinical pharmacology.

To help ameliorate the situation, the ABPI has clearly stated it is working with allied organisations including the British Science Association to inspire more students to pursue STEM careers.

Andrew Miles, UK General Manager and SVP UK and Ireland Pharmaceuticals, GSK said: “The pace of medicines development is faster than ever before, and the skills required are complex and often overlap.

Scientists of today need to be able to integrate computer skills with biological and chemical skills. The future of medicines development is exciting and we want young people in the UK to be equipped to lead this work, alongside other countries such as Germany, France and China who are all making strides in developing advanced treatments and technologies for patients.”

Additionally with Brexit looming over the country, the U.K. parliament needs to help ensure that overseas students are not deterred from the U.K. as a student or worker in such high-skilled jobs.