The first stage of calls for the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), which is supported by the EU with €1 billion in funding, was recently closed and is already being regarded as a success by many of those involved. From 30 April until 15 July 2008, numerous consortia of academia, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), regulatory organisations and industries not affiliated with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) submitted their Expressions of Interest to the IMI Joint Undertaking (IMI JU) first Call for proposals.

Launched by the European Commission and the EFPIA in 2004, the IMI is a unique initiative as it represents a dynamic partnership between the two bodies.

All in all, close to 150 Expressions of Interest were received spanning a total of 18 topics. The topics addressed in this first IMI JU Call for proposals included: six in the pillar 'Improving the Predictivity of Safety Evaluation'; seven in the pillar 'Improving the Predictivity of Efficacy Evaluation'; and five in the pillar 'Closing the gap in Education and Training'.

The current iteration of IMI will continue over the next five years. EFPIA has stated that it will match the EU's financial contribution of €1 billion.

By working in tandem the IMI hopes to hasten the discovery and development of new and improved medicines. Along the way they also hope to bolster Europe's competitiveness in the biopharmaceutical sector.

From the outset, it was outlined that the IMI JU will fund Patient Centred Projects (i.e. research projects that address the principle causes of delay, or bottlenecks, which slow down the development of innovative medicines).

For many Europeans, much of this sounds far removed from their everyday life. IMI, however, has the potential to significantly alter the lives of patients. The Education and Training pillar, for example, will lead to patients obtaining more information about the transmission of their illnesses. IMI will also improve access to innovative therapeutic approaches such as personalised medicine.

Following the close of the first call, all applications will be evaluated by Peer Review Committees by September 2008. Applicants who are considered as outstanding will then be invited to join EFPIA industry members to form a 'Project Consortium' that will develop the full project proposal. These proposals will be sent to the IMI JU for the second stage peer-evaluation towards the end of November 2008.

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