Collaborations Move Innovation Forward

A new partnership between academia and industry has the potential to create new therapies, lengthen lives, shrink deficits and expand economies. More collaborations like this are needed.

05.06.2015   |   12:41 BST

Establishing partnerships between academia and industry can help drive innovation in creating new treatments, which may increase life expectancy, shrink deficits and boost economies. These partnerships offer an effective way to accelerate the development of new treatments for some of our most challenging diseases.

A good example is the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) launched in 2008 by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and the European Commission.1 The goal of this initiative was to improve health by speeding up the development, and patient access to innovative medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need.1 Armed with a budget of €3.3 billion, the aim of the IMI is to speed up the development of innovative medicines and improve patient access to these new drugs particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need. Currently, the IMI has over 50 ongoing projects focusing on health issues such as diabetes, neurological conditions and lung disease to name a few.1

The UK has also recognised the importance of partnerships to help advance innovation in medicine and in response launched the ten-year Strategy for UK Life Science in 2011.2 The vision is to strengthen the health life science sector of the UK economy based on closer collaboration between academia, the NHS and industry.

Success so far includes the Biomedical Catalyst, a funding programme jointly operated with Innovate UK, which provides responsive and effective support for the best translational life science opportunities arising in the UK. Grants are available to UK academics and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) seeking to move their research more quickly from discovery to commercialisation.3 The initiative also seeks to facilitate NHS adoption of innovation as well as the improvement of patient engagement and recruitment into clinical trials, with the UK increasing its share of global commercial clinical trials. As of December 2013 the scheme had awarded nearly £150m of funding, matched by approximately £80m of private finance, to over 180 projects.4 These included using new approaches to advanced stem cell-based therapies, anti-microbial resistance, innovative cancer treatments and novel approaches to the manufacturing of advanced therapies.

The World Health Organisation is a supporter of partnerships to drive innovation noting that partnerships allow both sides to pool their resources, share the risk, promote economic growth and focus on innovative research and development (R&D).5 The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has also called for greater collaboration between the industry and academia to ensure the country remains a leader in drug development and science training. The industry trade body states that evolving the R&D process to a more mutual system would have benefits in a ‘more challenging climate’ – challenges such as rises in the cost of drug development and decreases in the number of new medicines being approved.6

Partnerships between industry and academia are an essential part of innovation and drug development in modern times. Although great strides have been made to establish and strengthen collaborations, more needs to be done to focus not only on early drug discovery, but also on the more challenging stages of development to continue innovating new medicines.

References1Innovative Medicines Initiative. Introducing IMI [online] Available from: [Last accessed: May 2015]

2 Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Office for Life Sciences. Strategy for UK Life Sciences [online] December 2011. Available from: [Last accessed: May 2015]

3 Medical Research Council. A Strategy for UK Regenerative Medicine [online] March 2012. Available from: [Last accessed: May 2015]

4Medical Research Council. Biomedical Catalyst [online] Available from: [Last accessed: May 2015]

5WHO. Priority Medicines for Europe and the World Update Report, 2013 [online] Available from: [Last accessed: May 2015]

6Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries (ABPI). Enriching research, training scientists: Results of the ABPI 2011 survey of partnership working between the pharmaceutical industry and the university sector. [online] 2011. Available from: [Last accessed: May 2015]

Date of Preparation: June 2015