The recently-retired chief executive of Roche Pharma, Bill Burns, speaking at the launch of the Italian Institute of Technology’s Drug Discovery and Development Unit (D3) in Genoa, has called for more public-private partnerships in the pharmaceutical industry.

Mr Burns said that “the key way to move forward in drug discovery and development is to have good interconnectivity”. He added that “no single institution is doing all of the right things, so partnerships are crucial to the development of innovative new medicines”.

He concluded by saying that the industry “needs to harness science from hybrid groups like the D3, who are working in an inspired way to advance the discovery of new drugs in important therapeutic areas”. D3 involves scientists with experience in industry and academia and is looking to discover new drugs in pain, inflammation and dementia.

It recently received funding of 12 million euros from the Italian government to cover 70 staff for the next five years and is looking to partner with external GROUPS to advance key projects. Scientific director, Daniele Piomelli, said that calls for more collaborations “speaks to the D3 business model, which focuses on uniting the creativity and innovation of academia with the focused and results-oriented culture of the pharmaceutical industry”.

Sergio Dompe, president of Italy’s pharmaceutical industry association Farmindustria said that collaborations between industry and academia “are crucial to the success of the Italian pharmaceutical industry”. He added that in the country “ we have extremely skilled scientists who have great ideas, but we face a challenge in getting new R&D projects off the ground,”