This week, 15 new research projects aimed at bringing innovative medicines more quickly to the market have been selected to receive €246 million from the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). The projects will foster understanding of health issues such as diabetes, pain, severe asthma and psychiatric disorders while increasing drug safety. They will also help improve the training of researchers and clinicians involved in medicines development.
The projects were chosen following the first call for proposals launched within the Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI), a public-private partnership – so called Joint Technology Initiative- between the European Commission and the pharmaceutical industry. With this selection, IMI has reached a key milestone. This initiative marks the first time that pharmaceutical competitors are pooling their resources, together with research organisations, patient groups and other stakeholders in large consortia, in order to develop generic, pre-competitive knowledge. The Commission’s contribution of €110 million is backed up with €136 million provided in-kind from the pharmaceutical industry. The successful projects will now enter into the final negotiation phase.
“I’m happy to see that this unique public-private partnership is bearing fruit. Our objective is for Europe to become a champion’s league for biopharmaceutical research. In times of crisis, such a model of cooperation is proving well suited to answering both EU competitiveness objectives and public health needs”, said Janez Potočnik, the EU Commissioner for Science and Research.
Arthur Higgins, CEO of Bayer Healthcare and president of the EFPIA, stated, “I am delighted to see that this pioneering model of collaboration between industry and the Commission has been taken up so positively all across Europe. The IMI will set new standards in data sharing and knowledge exchange.”
Better medicines reaching patients faster The projects selected will address the main causes of delay, or “bottlenecks”, in the pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) process. The overall objective is to encourage the more rapid discovery and development of better medicines for patients while improving the competitiveness of the European pharmaceutical industry. The projects will help to increase predicted safety and efficacy of medicines, enhance data exchange between researchers and improve education and training in the sector.
The selection process: a substantial interest from stakeholders Around 150 applications were received. The best consortia, consisting of research organisations, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), academia, patient organisations, and regulatory bodies, were selected in the first peer review to form joint project teams with the corresponding EFPIA consortia. On the basis of stringent scientific criteria and their potential impact on the identified “bottlenecks”, 15 projects from these teams have been selected.
European funding to boost the R&D capabilities of the public sector and SMEs Pharmaceutical companies within EFPIA will fully fund their own participation by providing R&D resources including staff, laboratory facilities, materials and clinical research. European Community’s funds will be allocated exclusively to other participants (public sector, SMEs, patient groups, academics).
Further steps: Contract negotiations for the 15 projects should be finished by November 2009. A second Call for Proposals is to be launched in autumn 2009. It is planned to seek proposals for projects in oncology, diagnosis of infectious diseases, chronic inflammatory diseases and knowledge management.
Background Launched in 2007, the Innovative Medicine Initiative was one of the first Joint Technology Initiatives (JTI) to be created. The total IMI budget for the period 2008-2013 is €2 billion (1 billion from the European Community and 1 billion from the industry). Created in 2007, the Innovative Medicine Initiative Joint Undertaking (IMI JU), representing both the European Community and the industry, implements IMI and is responsible for the launch of Calls for Proposals and the award of grants.