Brussels, 29 Jul 2005
The Technology Platform for innovative medicines has outlined a draft strategic research agenda that aims to address current bottlenecks in the biomedical research and development (R&D) process and accelerate the development of safe and effective new medicines.
Europe has lost its place as a global centre for biomedical research as its R&D base has gradually eroded and leading-edge research has moved to the US. Between 1990 and 2003, R&D investments in Europe grew by a factor of 2.6, while in the US this increase was fourfold.
In order to address this reality and re-establish European leadership, the EU - together with the major public and private stakeholders in the field - established the Technology Platform for innovative medicines (otherwise known as the Innovative Medicines Initiative) under the 'Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health' strand of the Sixth Framework Programme. A key task for the platform was the drafting of a strategic research agenda (SRA), around which future activities will be based. The SRA has now been published.
Four key bottlenecks in the biomedical R&D process were identified, and the strategic research agenda was structured in such as way as to address them. The four key pillars of the agenda therefore aim at improving: the predictivity of safety evaluation, the predictivity of efficacy evaluation, knowledge management, and education and training. Thus, the research agenda encompasses the whole path from discovery of a new drug target to the validation and approval of the final compound.
Under the safety pillar of the SRA, for example, recommendations include the creation of a European centre for drug safety, which will coordinate research needs in safety sciences. Under the knowledge management heading, meanwhile, the SRA foresees the creation of expert tools to allow for the secure networking of databases that are not currently linked.
Putting such a research agenda in place is an important element of the Innovative Medicines Initiative, but ultimately its main ambition is to coordinate investments in the drug development process and achieve a critical mass of stakeholders and resources. In order to achieve this, the SRA foresees the creation of a separate legal entity financed equally by the Commission and the biopharmaceutical industry.
The SRA presents only the initial thoughts of the Innovative Medicines Initiative on the organisation of such an entity. It states that the organisation should be not-for-profit, and should be charged with managing stakeholder participation and other operational aspects of the initiative. It concludes that for an initial period of seven years, annual funding of 440 million euro would be needed in order for the new entity to implement the recommendations contained within the SRA.
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