Europe puts data management at the heart of $4B drug innovation drive

Europe is embarking on the second, decadelong part of its public-private partnership to improve drug development, with Parliament agreeing this week to contribute to the €3 billion ($4.1 billion) program. And the "yes" vote will mean more cash for IT, with the 60-page strategy document singling out one area Europe must improve to fulfill its ambitions: data management.

Establishing excellence in data management is the only goal in the "enabling technologies" section of the strategic plan. Within that one goal, the team behind the project--called the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)--has bundled a long list of pressing IT concerns, though. The problems laid out by the team include the need for common data standards to enable data integration, how mobile and social media will reshape clinical trials and the use of health IT to improve treatment pathways.

All of these topics have been widely discussed and researched elsewhere. In its favor, IMI has access to a sizable pot of cash--although how much will go toward data management is unclear--and broad support from public and private groups. Trade group the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) is cofunding the initiative, and projects in the first phase of IMI signed up a who's who of Big Pharma collaborators. A program to build real-world data into drug development is collaborating with 9 of the top 10 pharma companies.

Having the likes of Novartis ($NVS), Roche ($RHHBY) and Sanofi ($SNY) on board could help IMI as it works toward its ambitious data-management goals. IMI wants to create the infrastructure, services and storage needed to share patient data for R&D across Europe, a project that appears to overlap with the United Kingdom's stalled efforts to open up its records. The organizers also want to support the development of supercomputing capabilities to speed analysis of data from next-generation sequencing and other sources.

- read EurActiv's vote coverage
- here's the strategy document (PDF)