European Lead Factory – A unique public-private partnership
Colm Carroll (Innovative Medicines Initiative)
Hugh Laverty (IMI, Belgium)
The European Lead Factory is a pan-European platform for drug discovery supported by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) that is set to give a major boost to drug discovery in Europe. Comprising a collection of half a million compounds (derived from new public and existing private company collections) and a screening centre, the European Lead Factory will offer researchers in academia, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and patient organisations an unprecedented opportunity to advance medical research and develop new medicines. The screening centre will provide High Throughput Screening (HTS) services for selected public projects from academia and SMEs. It will also handle all logistics for the Joint European Compound Collection, acting as a neutral, ‘honest’ broker in the transfer, handling and analysis of confidential data.
The European Lead Factory will provide the compounds and support for 48 HTS screens per year. Of these, 24 will come from the industry partners, who will run their own screens. The other 24 HTS projects will be selected from the public sector following competitive Calls for proposals. Once the HTS has been run, the ‘target owner’ (i.e. the organisation that submitted the target for inclusion in the project) will receive a list of a maximum of 50 compounds that have been identified. The project hopes to attract public screening proposals in a variety of therapeutic areas.
Covering all these activities a legal framework has been put in place to protect the confidentiality of key data, ownership and access rights, as well as allowing the generation of value and filing of intellectual property. Importantly, the legal framework developed tries to accommodate the interests of all the stakeholders, both public and private.
The European Lead Factory combines the power of the pharmaceutical industry’s previously inaccessible compound libraries with the innovation of the academic communities in designing novel compounds and the expertise of many SMEs in HTS and library generation. Importantly, it will provide a screening platform of industrial quality focused on value generation.