Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has announced a new, 800 million-euro initiative aimed at boosting the nation’s medicines sector, particularly in the area of biopharmaceutical R&D.

“We want to strengthen pharmaceutical research in Germany and ensure that patients benefit from new, innovative medicines more quickly,” said Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan. “Innovations in the development of medication will benefit everyone, as they raise the quality of life for patients and contribute to improved health care,” she added.

The programme, which will run until 2011, seeks to boost innovation, from original research to production, to develop a dialogue between all those involved in the process and encourage companies to bring their most promising new compounds through the development process.

Central to the programme is BioPharma, a 100 million-euro funding initiative that will encourage industry-led consortia to present concrete ways of bringing new discoveries through to production. Proposals which seek to establish permanent links between the various stages of the process will be particularly welcome, says the government.

Until the early 1990s, pharmaceutical production was one of most important sectors of the German economy, but by 2004, the nation accounted for just 7% of overall pharmaceutical production in Europe, the USA and Japan, compared to 9% in 1990, and had dropped from being the world’s third-leading location for the industry (after the USA and Japan) to fifth rank, having been overtaken by France and the UK, according to the German Association of Research-based Pharmaceutical Companies, the VFA.

Nevertheless, the research-based industry in Germany is currently spending 11 million euros a day on R&D, VFA chairman Andreas Barmer said earlier this year, welcoming an announcement from the BMBF that it would be increasing federal funding for health research projects to 160 million euros per year. “From the VFA’s perspective, scientific work on benefit evaluations or cost-benefit assessment and health care research is becoming increasingly desirable,” he said, adding: “Germany has some catching up to do in these areas.” By Lynne Taylor