Europe's Innovative Medicines Initiative has unveiled details of the first 18 projects it will fund under a 5-year, 2 billion ($3.1 billion) program to relieve bottlenecks in drug discovery and development. In addition to programs focusing on safety prediction, pharmacovigilance, and education and training, the first-call projects include a trio of therapeutic areas: brain disorders, metabolic disease and pulmonary inflammatory indications.

As initially reported in SciBX, the first-call projects will receive up to 122.7 million ($189.2 million) from the EU to support research activities and an estimated in-kind contribution of 172.5 million ($266 million) from participating members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).1

In its official rollout last week, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) also reveals the EFPIA members that have signed up to participate in each project (see Table 1, "Innovative Medicines Initiative projects").

European academic groups, biotechs, charities and regulatory agencies are being encouraged to establish consortia to apply for EU funding and work alongside the established pharma consortia. Initial expressions of interest on the first projects are due between June 1 and July 15.

Winning consortia are expected to be notified by the end of September, and they and the corresponding EFPIA-backed consortium will construct a full joint proposal to submit to the European Commission by the end of November. The first grants are expected to be awarded at the start of 2009.

The overarching goal of the IMI-finding better methods for predicting the safety and efficacy of new medicines-is similar to the FDA's Critical Path Initiative but has a larger public funding commitment.

IMI is also expected to recover some of the European pharma industry's perceived loss of competitiveness. Speaking at the Brussels launch of IMI last week, Roche's Jonathan Knowles said Europe's
biomedical sciences would receive targeted strategic support through the public-private partnership. "This in turn will help to improve Europe's competitiveness in biopharmaceutical innovation and make it a more attractive place for pharmaceutical R&D," he said.

Knowles is the pharma company's head of research and chairman of both IMI's governing board and EFPIA's research directors group.

"We have no problem to admit that we cannot solve all these issues by ourselves," added Arthur Higgins, EFPIA president and CEO of Bayer AG's Bayer HealthCare subsidiary. "Rather, we need to join forces with partners to address the main causes of delays, or bottlenecks, in drug discovery."

Potential participants in the program are being directed to the IMI website, where guidelines for applications, rules for participation and IP rules have been posted (http://imi.europa.eu/calls-01_en.html). A joint undertaking model agreement will be added to the site.

REFERENCES

1. Ward, M. SciBX 1(9), 7-8; March 27, 2008

COMPANIES AND INSTITUTIONS MENTIONED

Bayer AG (Xetra:BAY), Leverkusen, Germany

European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, Brussels, Belgium

Innovative Medicines Initiative, Brussels, Belgium

Roche (SWX:ROG), Basel, Switzerland