The European Commission and the pharmaceutical industry have finalised a 2 billion euro fund which will help set up public-private partnerships in biomedical research.

The Innovative Medicines Initiative, which is being described as a unique partnership between the Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, has been formally adopted by the Council of the European Union. Its goal will be to speed up the discovery and development of better medicines and in doing so, will attract pharmaceutical investment in Europe.

Arthur Higgins, EFPIA president and chief executive of Bayer Healthcare, said that “despite all the advances being made in areas from cancer, metabolic and infectious diseases, there is still much work to be done”, hence the need for the IMI. He added that the “bold and innovative initiative…will challenge the status quo of drug discovery” by addressing key bottlenecks in the development of new drugs in pre-competitive R&D. “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”, he concluded.

The IMI is one of four ‘joint technology initiatives’ voted through by the European Parliament recently to encourage such public-private partnerships”. It will be jointly funded by the 7th Framework Research Programme and EFPIA to the tune of 1 billion euros apiece through to 2013. The FP7 funds will be used
exclusively to boost the R&D capabilities of the public sector and small and medium sized companies, whereas EFPIA companies will bear their own costs.

The idea is that the IMI’s collaborative approach will reduce risks for all partners and enable them to develop new products faster, through access to shared resources, tools and infrastructure. It also offers opportunities for companies which specialise in the tools and technologies that support medicine development, such as in vitro, in vivo and in silico modeling.

Research projects will be selected for funding “according to strict criteria”, noted EFPIA and the first call for proposals will take place following an information day in Brussels on February 21.