BioCity Scotland to be UK hub for €196m European drug discovery
7 February 2013
A major new pharmaceutical drug discovery initiative, the
European Lead Factory, is to be centred at BioCity Scotland in
Lanarkshire, in partnership with the University of Dundee.
The project will bring at least €19 million (£16.3 million) of
research funding to Scotland following the announcement today by the
Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) of the launch of the project.
Accelerating the development of a new generation of drugs is
behind the announcement by an international consortium of 30
partners taking part in the European Lead Factory. This partnership,
the first of its kind, is supported by the Innovative Medicines
Initiative (IMI), and creates unprecedented opportunities for the
discovery of new medicines through access to a proprietary,
high-quality compound collection.
In addition to the €19 million (£16.3 million) of IMI funding,
further financial support for the Scottish-based part of the project
worth £3.5 million will come from the Scottish Funding Council and
the Scottish Government. In partnership with the Scottish
Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA), the University of
Dundee will place a team of drug discovery scientists at Biocity
Scotland to conduct screening and medicinal chemistry activities for
Libraries of compounds
Pharmaceutical companies have vast libraries of compounds held in
safeguarded corporate chemical collections which can be screened in
the hunt for potential medicines. Usually, access to these compound
libraries is highly restricted. However, as part of the European
Lead Factory, the 7 participating pharmaceutical companies will
contribute a total of 300,000 chemical compounds from their
A library of an estimated additional 200,000 novel compounds will
be developed jointly by academia, and by small and medium
enterprises (SMEs). Together, the two libraries will form a Joint
European Compound Collection consisting of up to half a million
compounds that will be accessible to all project partners and to any
European organisations offering promising new targets for drug
discovery screening. These target proposals will be selected through
An equally important part of the European Lead Factory is the
European Screening Centre, which will assist contributors of novel
targets in the development of tests amenable to the requirements of
industrialized screening methodology. Both the sites in Scotland and
in the Netherlands will run state of the art facilities for compound
logistics high throughput screening to respectively handle the
500,000-strong compound library and to evaluate new compounds that
are active against the novel targets.
Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Screening Centre team,
Dr Glenn Crocker CEO BioCity Group said: “For me, the
exciting aspect of this project is the opportunity it provides to
discover novel drugs through the collaboration of seven large pharma
companies and an open call to academics and industry across Europe.
On top of that there is the potential to build on this platform,
extending it into new screening technologies or wider compound
collections. We are very pleased it will be based at BioCity
Professor Andrew Hopkins of the University of Dundee,
and SULSA Director said: "We are absolutely delighted that the
European Lead Factory will be co-located in Scotland with Biocity
Scotland providing compound logistics and the University of Dundee
staff at the site, undertaking screening activities and medicinal
chemistry for the project.
"The addition of the European Lead Factory to the Scottish Life
Sciences community seals our growing international reputation as one
of the most dynamic and innovative hubs for academic drug discovery.
We will use the opportunity provided by the IMI project as a
spring-board to win further investments in the field of drug
discovery innovation to benefit not only academic research but wider
economic and societal benefits for Scotland."
Speaking as the announcement was made at his official residence
in Edinburgh this morning, First Minister Alex Salmond
said: "Congratulations to BioCity Scotland, the University of Dundee
and to SULSA on bringing such a huge and valuable piece of work to
Scotland. This provides enormous opportunities for Scotland's life
sciences sector and it is fantastic recognition of the talent and
expertise of Scotland's life sciences community.
"In particular, this shows the combined strength of our
universities and commercial experts. Working together, they have
been able to secure the biggest ever IMI contract of its kind for
Scotland, putting Lanarkshire and Dundee at the forefront of drug
discovery in Europe for many years to come.
"This morning's announcement reinforces Scotland's international
reputation as a nation at the forefront of scientific breakthroughs
and promotes the life sciences sector as central to continued
economic growth in Scotland."
IMI Executive Director Michel Goldman said: “IMI
is very excited by the launch of the European Lead Factory. 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. 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
The total budget for the European Lead Factory amounts to €196
million. Of this €80 million comes from the European Commission’s
Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7), and €91 million is
provided as in-kind contributions from the participating companies
that are members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical
Industries and Associations (EFPIA). The remaining €25 million comes
from other contributions from the non-EFPIA participants.
Bayer HealthCare will be the coordinator from the European
Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) for
this IMI project. The Netherlands based non-profit organization TI
Pharma will facilitate the overall scientific governance of this new
project and is heading the European Consortium’s Screening efforts.
Taros Chemicals is heading the European consortium’s Chemistry
If the project proves successful during its initial five year
funding period, the European Screening Centre and the teams of SMEs
and academic institutions aim for a sustainable role in drug
discovery and the future growth of drug discovery in Europe.
About the Innovative Medicines Initiative
The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is the world’s largest
public-private partnership in health. IMI is improving the
environment for pharmaceutical innovation in Europe by engaging and
supporting networks of industrial and academic experts in
collaborative research projects.
The European Union contributes €1 billion to the IMI research
programme, and this is matched by in kind contributions worth at
least another €1 billion from the member companies of the European
Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).
The Innovative Medicines Initiative currently supports 40
projects, many of which are already producing impressive results.
The projects all address major bottlenecks in drug development, and
so will accelerate the development of safer and more effective
treatments for patients.