Pharmaceutical firms focused for years on the most profitable niche markets (cholesterol, heart failure, inflammation, etc). As a result, for these major pathologies there is a wide range of very similar treatments that are hard to improve and increasingly generic.

"Caught up in a spiral of mega-mergers, pharmaceutical groups became larger and larger, but also less and less innovative. Their research and development (R&D), weakened by successive mergers, became fossilised in these huge structures." This conclusion(1), drawn by the industry itself, materialised in a severe restructuring of research centres and massive job losses.

Research is evolving, however: biotechnology products are gaining momentum, new prospects are emerging in prevention, diagnostics, therapy, etc. Biomedical research relies on extremely sophisticated technology tools (imagery, biotechnology, data banks, mathematical modelling, screening facilities, DNA chips, etc). It is consequently becoming difficult for a single enterprise to master all the skills and have all the research and innovation capacities required. The direct consequence of this is that research tends to be outsourced. The size of pharmaceutical firms is no longer an essential condition for the discovery of new drugs, which can be developed by small public or private entities, say the experts consulted in the health industry report. Partnership agreements are also on the rise to develop products requiring a wide range of competences. These are mainly concluded with public research laboratories (in 44% of cases) but also industry (27%) and other biotechnology companies (22%).

This is the spirit of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a large-scale public-private partnership between the European Commission and the European pharmaceutical industry association, EFPIA. With a budget of 2 billion, IMI supports research projects that involve universities...

To continue reading