A new European centre that aims to provide a state-of-the-art drug discovery service is to be set up in Hamburg, Germany as part of a project initiated by the biotechnology firm Evotec.

Although still in the early stages of planning, the project, called European ScreeningPort, has already raised more than 7 million euros in financing and both Evotec and the City of Hamburg have invested into the newly-founded company, which will be run as a public private partnership. It will also be supported with “considerable funds” from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and Norgenta, the agency that promotes life sciences in the federal states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.

The project, say the founders, “provides the missing link in Europe between academic research and the pharmaceutical industry” and the research centre will accelerate “translating promising results generated in basic research on the causes of diseases into new therapeutics”.

ScreeningPort will act as a service provider that enables academic research institutes to access its state-of-the-art technology, “its vast amount of chemical compounds as well as its sample and data processing capabilities”. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies can also benefit from the data generated at ScreeningPort “and thus complement their own drug research”.

A number of European research institutes have already been tied in and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the Vienna-based Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences have signed letters of intent to participate. Thomas Rachel, secretary of state at the Ministry of Education and Research, said that ScreeningPort is “an important element to close the gap between basic research and the commercial development of new therapeutics,” noting that total funding of more than 800 million euros will be provided by 2011 under the initiative.

Evotec chief executive Joern Aldag added that “academic research generates a plethora of excellent scientific ideas that require an industrial environment for further development” and the European ScreeningPort “provides us with the link that translates scientific discoveries into results that pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, such as Evotec, can build upon."