Seven major drugmakers, including Sanofi, AstraZeneca, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson, are providing compounds to put into the European Lead Factory, a public/private project supported by the continent's Innovative Medicines Initiative designed to speed up drug discovery.

The new five-year consortium will create a small molecule library collection allowing drug discovery on innovative and promising targets from pharma companies and academia. As well as the aforementioned companies, Lundbeck, Merck KGaA and UCB are participating, as are 23 other universities, research organisations, public bodies and non-profit groups.

The seven pharmaceutical companies will contribute at least 300,000 chemical compounds, while a library of an additional 200,000 novel compounds will be developed jointly by academia and small and medium-sized enterprises. A key part part of the European Lead Factory will see the establishment of the European Screening Centre at sites in Scotland and the Netherlands which will run state-of-the-art facilities for compound logistics and high throughput screening.

The total budget for the project amounts to around 196 million euros. Of this, 80 million euros comes from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7), and 91 million euros is provided as in-kind contributions from the participating companies that are members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). The remaining 25 million euros comes from other contributions from the non-EFPIA participants.

IMI executive director Michel Goldman said "this unique project is an excellent example of how a public-private partnership can transform the way in which the pharmaceutical sector identifies new medicines. For the first time, it will give European researchers unprecedented access to industry chemical collections and facilitate the translation of their findings into actual treatments for patients".

The Netherlands-based non-profit TI Pharma will facilitate the governance of this new project and is responsible for the scientific management of the screening centre. Its scientific director and head of screening of the European Lead Factory, Ton Rijnders, said the consortium "brings unprecedented opportunities to develop a sustainable groundbreaking drug discovery platform based on superior input and output by connecting top notch science, decades of experience in drug discovery and development and the agility of SMEs".