At the EU regional level, one of the most prominent collaborations in process development is a €30 million ($38 million) unit
at the Bayer group's site at Leverkusen, Germany, which aims to create a modular continuous production plant. Among its 25
partners, in addition to Bayer, is AstraZeneca (London). Another partnership underway at London's Imperial College is coordinating
an EU project involving nine partners from seven countries to develop a new generation of molecular purification technologies
for the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients.
However, the largest EU public-private partnership in pharmaceuticals–the €2 billion Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)—has
already run into trouble because of disagreements over funding and IP rights among its academic and industrial participants.
IMI, which launched its first projects two years ago, has been focusing on small-molecule R&D, but recently its scientific
committee called for more attention be paid to biological-production processes. The university and research institute members
of IMI complain that academia is being asked to pay too high a proportion of the project's direct costs, and that its industrial
partners are being given too generous IP rights.
"The IMI model in its present form cannot be used as model for future [public-private partnerships] in EU programs," says
Linda Polik, head of European research services at Oxford University, one of the IMI academic partners.
Nonetheless, these types of partnerships and other forms of industrial-academic research partnerships are continuing to gain
strong support within the European pharmaceutical industry, particularly as the current economic climate puts pressure on
the R&D funds of both the public and private sectors.
No matter how things turn out, BBSRC's Caulcott says, "This presents us with some great opportunities to work together through
joint funding and sharing of knowledge and resources."
Sean Milmo is a freelance writer based in Essex, UK.