EU to inject millions into developing innovative medicines

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Europe is pumping an extra €156.3 million into accelerating the discovery and development of novel drugs as part of a new wave of public-private investment in innovative medicines.

The funding is the second tranche made available as part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a joint venture between the European Commission and members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. The IMI agreed a package of €246 million for new medicines earlier this year (EURACTIV 19/05/09). 

EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Poto?nik said the initiative will improve Europe’s attractiveness for pharmaceutical R&D and to ensure that results from fundamental research can be rapidly translated into new innovative treatments. 

There have been ongoing concerns that biomedical research is facing a bottleneck due to fragmented infrastructure (EURACTIV 19/06/09) and complaints from academics that research had become prohibitively expensive since the EU’s Clinical Trials Directive was introduced (EURACTIV 25/08/09). 

As part of an effort to inject momentum into reforming Europe’s research infrasctructure, the IMI has appointed Michel Goldman, professor of immunology at the faculty of medicine of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Belgium, as its executive director. He takes up his post on Wednesday (16 September). 

The second call for proposals, which will be launched at the end of next month, focuses on nine topics including new tools for improving drug efficacy, improved diagnostics to facilitate clinical trials, and electronic health records. 

EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Poto?nik underlined the achievements and major advances of the initiative: "IMI is our response to the need of improving Europe's attractiveness for pharmaceutical R&D and to ensure that results from fundamental research can be rapidly translated into new innovative treatments. We should see results from this exciting new research mechanism very soon and [...] new innovative medicines should reach European patients faster." 

Addressing the media at the event, Arthur J. Higgins, CEO of Bayer HealthCare and president of EFPIA, praised the collaboration between the industry and the European Commission: "The IMI is a clear statement that Europe intends to be at the forefront of biopharmaceutical innovation. By accelerating and optimising R&D processes we are trying to remove bottlenecks in the drug development process." 

"For this reason, we have already invested €246 million – including €136 million from industry – in the successful proposals to date. The greatest success of this initiative has been in bringing together normally competing pharmaceutical companies with academic stakeholders in an unparalleled effort to accelerate the discovery of innovative medicines."

The newly-appointed executive director of the Innovative Medicines Initiative  (IMI), Professor Michel Goldman, said: "I am very pleased to be joining IMI at such an exciting moment in its development. On the basis of my previous experience in public-private partnerships, my first priority will be to strengthen the bridges between academia and industry in the interest of patients." 

Launched in 2007, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is a public-private partnership aimed at supporting more efficient discovery and development of better medicines for patients by removing research bottlenecks in the current drug development process. 

The total IMI budget for the period 2008-2017 is €2 billion (€1 billion from the European Community and €1 billion from industry). 

The first call for proposals under the IMI was launched in April 2008. 134 proposals were submitted, of which 15 have been selected to receive a total of €246 million (EURACTIV 19/05/09). 

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