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Cutting the cost in Europe
BRUSSELS—In an effort to speed drug discovery and development, the European Commission and the European Pharmaceutical Industry Association (EFPIA) have forged the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). With a total budget of E2 billion, IMI will fund pan-European public-private partnerships in biomedical research.
Karen Strandgaard, EFPIA research directors group manager, says developing drugs is becoming increasingly more expensive and time consuming. In recent years, she adds, there has been growth in R&D investment without corresponding growth in drugs coming to market.
"IMI will address this by funding projects that will help drug developers better predict the safety and efficacy of a drug candidate as early in the drug development process as possible, allowing drug developers to move candidates forward with a higher chance of success," Strandgaard says. "This should contribute to reverse the current trend and allow drug developers, including EFPIA companies, to develop more innovative medicines for the benefit of patients."
In order to speed discovery, IMI hopes to attract pharmaceutical investment in Europe, which could prove to be a boon for research.
"Research will benefit in two ways, first via collaborations which in the past have shown that combining the strength of different partners leads to more efficient and creative research," says Strandgaard. "For the first time large biopharmaceutical companies, SMEs, academia, patient organizations, regulatory authorities and others will collaborate on a big scale towards a common goal. Secondly, research will benefit from the funding provided by IMI."
The partnership isn't letting any moss grow under its feet, as it is already seeking proposals.
"Today, despite all the advances being made in areas from cancer, metabolic and infectious diseases, there is still much work to be done. The IMI is an initiative bringing together public authorities, regulators, patients, academia and industry with the aim of boosting biomedical research in Europe," says Arthur J. Higgins, president of EFPIA and CEO of Bayer HealthCare, in a statement. "By addressing key bottlenecks in the research and development of new drugs in pre-competitive R&D, the IMI will challenge the status quo of drug discovery. This is a great example of how public and private partners can join forces to really make a difference and improve the health and wealth of European citizens."
IMI Joint Undertaking, the new legal entity established to manage the allocated funds, will receive E1 billion from EU's 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7). This investment will be matched by EFPIA companies with in-kind contributions worth E1 billion, including R&D resources such as staff, laboratories, materials and clinical research capabilities.
Research projects will be selected for funding according to strict criteria.
The aim of the Innovative Medicines Initiative and its research agenda is not to produce specific treatments but to address the key 'bottlenecks' in the biomedical R&D process, namely a lack of efficacy and clinical safety concerns.
Therefore, projects will focus on safety and efficacy, but also on knowledge management and education and training. Progress in these four areas will lead to faster discovery and development of better medicines, providing new tools which can be applied to different therapeutic areas, including rare and neglected diseases.
This will enable patients to have faster access to innovative therapies. The collaborative approach fostered by IMI aims to reduce risks for all partners and enable them to develop new products faster, through access to shared resources, tools and infrastructure.
The project also offers opportunities for companies specialized in the development of tools and technologies supporting therapeutic development, such as in vitro, in vivo and in silico modeling. DDN