After three years of planning, piloting and preparation, the blueprint for the Innovative Medicines Initiative is ready to be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe for approval say members of the IMI at the 19th annual Drug Information Conference, held this week in Vienna.

“In a few weeks time, the IMI will be ready to be put through the final political stages before implementation. We will file our agenda initially with the European Parliament for opinion and then on to the Council of Europe for approval we hope,” says Dr Ian Ragan, Executive Consultant to Lilly, European Scientific Affairs.

Initially proposed in 2004, the Innovative Medicines Initiative is the brain child of the European Commission. One of the major objectives of the European Union is to build the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. Strengthening the research base in Europe through the biopharmaceutical environment is key to meeting this target within the allotted timeframe.

Strengthening drug discovery and development

Furthermore, strengthening the biomedical R&D environment will benefit patients and society by increasing the efficacy of drug discovery and development. Over recent years it has become more difficult to justify increasing R&D costs as output in pharma has been steadily falling. “Pharma makes a very important contribution to European scientific R&D so the EC approached us to get involved and do something jointly. It seemed to make sense all round,” explains Ragan.

Under Framework 7, the EU plan to promote scientific research in Europe and the IMI has received 1 billion euros over seven years. Industry will provide a further 1 billion euro in kind through their own research into new technologies, the findings of which will be shared amongst other consortium members.

'Unprecedented data sharing

Effectively, joining forces should speed up the R&D process, reduce the failure rate at the expensive late stage, and allow us to recruit patients faster. “Nobody has done this before on this scale - companies actually sharing data this way is unprecedented. The plan is that everyone, industry and academia, will all benefit from the new technologies discovered. ” adds Ragan.

The IMI hopes to receive a decision by November this year, after which it will be launched immediately, inviting research proposals from industry and academia. After approval, the IMI will become a separate body, totally independent from the EC despite receiving its funds through Framework 7. By Becky McCall at the DIA meeting in Vienna, Austria

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