An international consortium of pharmaceutical companies, academia, research organisations and other related entities have launched a new platform to help enhance drug discovery in Europe.
The consortium, the European Lead Factory, aims to help translate academic research more quickly into high-quality lead drug molecules and will initially run for five years. Drug discovery will take place by screening compound libraries for potential new therapeutics.
Seven pharmaceutical companies, Bayer Pharma, AstraZeneca, Lundbeck, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Merck KGaA, Sanofi and UCB Pharma, have agreed to participate in the platform and will donate at least 300000 chemical compounds to the initiative. A further 200000 compounds are also expected to be developed in the course of the initiative by combining the knowledge of all consortium partners, as well as using open innovation and crowd sourcing. The compound collection will be screened by the pharmaceutical companies using the European Screening Centre, which has been established as part of the initiative, and target proposals will be selected through competitive calls. The screening centre will comprise of two sites, one in Scotland in the UK and one in the Netherlands. Both sites will use state-of-the-art facilities and highput screening techniques to handle the 500000-strong compound library.
The European Lead Factory is being supported through Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative and has received EUR80 million in funding from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research. A further EUR91 million will come from the participating pharmaceutical companies and EUR25 million will come from other contributions, binging the total budget for the platform to EUR196 million.
In total, 30 different partners are included in the consortium.
“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,” Michel Goldman, executive director of the IMI, said in a statement. “This project will not only advance the chances of success in the discovery of new medicines by European researchers, but also add value by building research capacity in Europe.”