The first 15 research projects have been selected to receive joint funding totalling 246 million euros from the European Commission and the pharmaceutical industry under the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), which aims to boost European drug R&D and bring its discoveries to market more quickly.

The Commission will provide 110 million euros to successful projects submitted by public-sector and small-to-medium-sized (SME) enterprises, plus patient groups and academics. The industry’s contribution will be 136 million euros provided in-kind, meaning that European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) member companies will fully fund their own participation in the projects by providing R&D resources including staff, laboratory facilities, materials and clinical research.

The overall objective of the IMI, which was launched in 2007 as one of the European Union’s first Joint Technology Initiatives (JTI), is to encourage the more rapid discovery and development of better medicines while improving the competitiveness of the European pharmaceutical industry. The announcement of the 15 projects means the Initiative has reached a key milestone, marking the first time that pharmaceutical competitors will pool their resources, together with research organisations, patient groups and other stakeholders in large consortia, in order to develop generic, "pre-competitive" knowledge, says EFPIA.

The 15 projects, selected from around 150 applications, will address the main bottlenecks causing delays in the R&D process. They will aim to foster understanding of issues such as diabetes, pain, severe asthma and psychiatric disorders while increasing drug safety, and help to increase predicted safety and efficacy of medicines, enhance data exchange between researchers and improve education and training in the sector.

The projects will now enter into the final negotiation phase, which should be completed by November. For a full list of the selected projects, visit: www.efpia.eu

Meantime, the IMI Joint Undertaking (JU) – which implements IMI and is responsible for the launch of Calls for Proposals and the award of grants – has announced its new draft set of scientific priorities, which will set the frame for the development of the second IMI Call.

Cancer, infectious diseases and inflammation are the priorities for the “efficacy pillar” of this year’s draft, while the focus of the “knowledge management pillar” will be on standardization, free access, interoperability and exchange of data relevant for drug discovery and development, including databases for drug/disease models and small molecules and a frame for access and exchange of clinical/healthcare data.

- The overall budget for the IMI 2009 Call is currently expected to be around 160 million euros. The total IMI budget for 2008-2013 will be 2 billion euros, contributed 50/50 by the industry and the European Community.