German SME Taros Chemicals boasts expertise in synthetic and medicinal chemistry and hit-to-lead development. The company is a key player in IMI’s European Lead Factory project, which is developing a major new pan-European platform for drug discovery comprising a large compound collection and associated screening centre. For Taros, participating in an IMI project has delivered many benefits, ranging from an expansion of the company’s labs to the acquisition of new skills and a deeper understanding of the pharmaceutical business.
The European Lead Factory is set to give a major boost to drug discovery in Europe. Comprising a collection of half a million compounds (derived from new public and existing private company collections) and a screening centre, the project will offer researchers in academia, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and patient organisations an unprecedented opportunity to advance medical research and develop new medicines. The project was launched at the beginning of 2013.
Dortmund-based Taros Chemicals, which was established in 1999, coordinates the project’s chemistry consortium and is responsible for contributing to the project’s compound collection. For Taros founder and CEO Dimitrios Tzalis, the reasons for getting involved in the European Lead Factory project were simple. ‘I have always held that an open innovation approach is crucial to finding new drug solutions to some of the unmet medical needs and detrimental diseases plaguing mankind today,’ he explains.
Dr Tzalis is enthusiastic about his experience of working in an IMI project, describing it as ‘very challenging and enriching’. On a personal level, leading the chemistry consortium has helped him to enhance his management skills, particularly in the areas of people management and consensus building. ‘As for my organisation, I can honestly say that the project has brought a new outlook into the company,’ he says, explaining that the project has provided Taros with the opportunity to broaden its scope and add new projects to the pipeline. They have also had to dramatically expand their lab facilities to accommodate the work generated by the ELF project.
Looking to the future, Dr Tzalis is confident that the benefits of participation will last well beyond the end of the project. In the short term, the pharmaceutical industry is keen on tapping into the partners’ results and developing them further. In the longer term, at the end of the project the partners plan to implement a commercialisation plan which will allow them to harvest any leads generated and offer screening services to the wider scientific community.
Asked what he would say to an SME considering participation in an IMI project, Dr Tzalis’s answer is clear. ‘I would encourage potential SMEs to participate in IMI Calls, as their efforts would most certainly pay off through newly-created opportunities and networks,’ he says. ‘The open innovation platform approach allows a better and deeper understanding of the academic and pharmaceutical world, both integral ends of the value chain. It also gives SMEs a broader insight into the pharmaceutical business – its operations, scope and future direction.’
Taros Chemicals: www.tarosdiscovery.com
European Lead Factory: www.europeanleadfactory.eu