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Lilly launches academic focused R&D programme in Europe and the US

US pharma firm looks to engage the industry's next generation of scientists

Eli Lilly & Company has launched a new innovation programme to boost its R&D efforts in Europe and the US and build its relationship with the academic community.

The programme consists of two components, the Innovation Fellowship Awards and the Research Awards Programme.

The former aims to develop research proposals from post-doctoral scientists, establishing an academic-industry training partnership by pairing the post-doctoral fellow and an academic mentor with a Lilly researcher.

Speaking to PMLiVE, the president of Lilly Research Laboratories Jan Lundberg said this marked a “very deliberate effort to engage the next generation of scientists for pharma collaborations and pharma employment”.

The company's Research Awards Programme has similar academic-focused aims, and will bring together external groups of scientists and academics to further advance research in Lilly's key investigational therapeutic areas of neuroscience, cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

Lilly will offer researchers access to tools to conduct basic research in exchange for information to inform Lilly's own research, and expects to support about 30 projects a year by 2014.

Commenting on the research potential in what some see as a negative climate for pharma, with companies suffering from patent expiries and increasingly austere healthcare budgets, Lundberg said: “You can say this could be the worst time for the pharma industry, it's also the best time for science and innovation and understanding of disease for the future.”

Lundberg took his company's plans to the European Commission yesterday, discussing them with Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli, both he said were positive about Lilly's initiatives.

“I think we are all on the same page that the R&D based pharma industry is at the top end of the knowledge economy for the future. And Europe has here a historically very strong platform to build on,” Lundberg said.

But he add that extra efforts were necessary to make sure Europe stayed ahead of emerging markets in R&D such as China.

He welcomed the introduction of the planned Clinical Trial Directive, but said a more pan-European approval process for healthcare products and greater dialogue between industry and regulators should also be encouraged.

Lundberg also suggested improvements could be made to the way regulators adapt to science and technological advancements, such as running companion diagnostic registration in parallel to drug approvals to better accommodate tailored therapies.

The initiatives follow on from Lilly's Open Innovation Drug Discovery platform, through which the company collaborates with a number of institutions around the world, including 60 in Europe.

These organisations send potential new therapeutic agents to Lilly, which then screens them to see if they could be starting points for new medicines.

Institutions involved in the project include the University of Cambridge in the UK, the University of California in the US and the University of Valencia in Spain.

29th February 2012

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