Details of First Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) Projects Released

The European Commission has released details of the first projects to receive support under the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) Joint Technology Initiative (JTI). The 15 projects will share a EUR 246 million funding pot. EUR 110 million of this will come from the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), while the pharmaceutical industry will provide the remaining EUR 136 million through in kind contributions (e.g. staff, laboratory facilities, materials and clinical research).

The IMI is one of five JTIs launched so far under FP7. It brings together public research organisations and the pharmaceutical industry with the goal of tackling the bottlenecks that currently hamper the drug development process. Tools developed by the IMI will help scientists speed up the screening of potential drugs for efficacy and safety, for example. The IMI also has a strong focus on training and knowledge sharing.

The IMI's first call for proposals, which closed in July 2008, attracted around 150 applications from consortia consisting of research organisations, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), patient organisations and regulatory bodies. The 15 projects picked for funding by independent experts were chosen on the basis of stringent scientific criteria and their ability to tackle the bottlenecks in the drug development process.

"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," commented Arthur Higgins, CEO of Bayer Healthcare and president of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). "The IMI will set new standards in data sharing and knowledge exchange."

The selected projects address a variety of issues and diseases: four focus on training, and three will work on issues relating to drug safety and effectiveness. On the disease front, there are projects on diabetes, cancer, pain, psychiatric disorders, neurodegenerative conditions, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Contract negotiations for the projects are ongoing and should be concluded by the end of this year. A second IMI call for proposals is due to be launched in autumn 2009. This will probably focus on oncology, the diagnosis of infectious diseases, chronic inflammatory diseases and knowledge management.

"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," said Janez Potocnik, the EU Commissioner for Science and Research. "In times of crisis, such a model of cooperation is proving well suited to answering both EU competitiveness objectives and public health needs."

JTIs are a new scheme set up under FP7, and so far, five of these public-private partnerships have been launched: the IMI; the Embedded Computing Systems Initiative (ARTEMIS); Clean Sky, focused on aeronautics and air transport; the European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council (ENIAC); and the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Initiative (FCH).

By combining public and private research efforts in key areas, these schemes should boost European competitiveness and enhance quality of life. Under the JTIs, Commission funds support the participation of public sector researchers, SMEs and stakeholders such as patient groups, while industrial partners fund their own participation.

The IMI has a EUR 2 billion budget for the period from 2008 to 2013, with half of this amount coming from the Commission, and the other half coming from industry.

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