Joint European Commission and industry funding totalling 156.3 million euros was announced yesterday in the next wave of research projects to receive support under the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).

The IMI is a Joint Technology Initiative established in 2007 by the Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). The nine topics selected for the next wave of funding cover: - imaging biomarkers for anticancer drug development; - new tools for target validation to improve drug efficacy (oncology); molecular biomarkers - accelerating cancer therapy development and refining patient care; - identification and development of rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests for bacterial diagnosis to facilitate conduct of clinical trials and clinical practice; - understanding aberrant adaptive immunity mechanisms; - translational research in chronic immune-mediated disease - bridging between animal models and humans; - drug/disease modeling - library & framework; - open pharmacological space; and - Electronic Health Records (EHR).

76.8 million euros of the funding for the second call will be provided by the European Commission, with 79.5 million euros “expected to be provided in kind from EFPIA member companies,” say the partners. The second call for proposals is due to be launched on October 30.

''IMI is our response to the need of improving Europe's attractiveness for pharmaceutical R&D and to ensure that results from fundamental research can be rapidly translated into new innovative treatments. We should see results from this exciting new research mechanism very soon," the EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik, said yesterday.

Added EFPIA president Arthur Higgins: "the IMI is a clear statement that Europe intends to be at the forefront of biopharmaceutical innovation. By accelerating and optimizing R&D processes we are trying to remove bottlenecks in the drug development process. For this reason, we have already invested 246 million euros – including 136 million euros from industry – in the successful proposals to date."

“The greatest success of this initiative has been in bringing together normally competing pharmaceutical companies with academic stakeholders in an unparalleled effort to accelerate the discovery of innovative medicines,” said Mr Higgins, who is chief executive of Bayer Healthcare.

It was also announced yesterday that Michel Goldman, professor of immunology at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, has been appointed at the IMI’s executive director. Prof Goldman, who takes up his post tomorrow (September 16), said his first priority will be to strengthen the bridges between academia and industry in the interest of patients.

The first call for proposed under the IMI was launched in April 2008 and 15 were selected in May to receive funding totalling 246 million euros. The total IMI budget for 2008-13 is 2 billion euros, with the European Community and the industry contributing 1 billion euros each.