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‘It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make this happen’ – an interview with the PharmaTrain project coordinators


Ingrid Klingmann

IMI Programme office: Why was a project like PharmaTrain needed in the first place?

Ingrid Klingmann: The PharmaTrain project was needed to systematically increase the availability of experts in the pharmaceutical industry who are able to oversee the full medicines development process, from identification of a molecule, through animal testing, clinical development and the regulatory process, until the post-marketing research that is performed.

The education and training in medicines development has been quite fragmented in Europe and professional certification limited to physicians. The aim of this project was to bring together all the experts who are teaching this subject and make them agree on the content that should be taught when someone wants to become a specialist in that area. We also wanted to ensure that the post-graduate training courses that are offered to students are of equal quality and deliver the same type of learning effect, wherever the training is done in Europe.

IMI Programme office: Which achievements are you most proud of as project coordinators?

Ingrid Klingmann: The biggest achievement was probably creating a common understanding in this community of course providers, not only in Europe but more and more on a global level. PharmaTrain created the understanding that medicines development is a discipline that needs to be thought broadly and as much as possible. Also we got partners to agree on how that should be done in a modular approach, content wise and quality wise. This is a very big achievement.

Secondly, we made the next step and went from improving the training environment to defining what it means to apply the acquired knowledge in the day-to-day work in order to ultimately develop a certification in medicines development. We did this as a pilot in Italy and Japan. Everything that is needed to enable such a specialisation has been achieved and it is now a matter of making that an attractive and interesting process in more countries.

Matthias Gottwald

Matthias Gottwald: One of the big achievements is that we now have a relatively big group of key universities running programmes in a joint way, with both the academic and industry experts involved in the development and delivery of the courses. I think we can also be proud of the fact that the quality of these programmes has been recognised by universities in Asia and Latin America, who have decided to join the PharmaTrain family.

IMI Programme office: How did the academic community benefit from this project?

Ingrid Klingmann: Thanks to this project, the academic community found a way to sit together, share experiences, and exchange views. They also found a mechanism to assess the quality of the available courses according to a system that was agreed amongst them. Furthermore, this evaluation mechanism was developed together with the pharmaceutical companies, ensuring that the courses’ content and delivery also fulfils industry needs.

IMI Programme office: How did the industry benefit?

Matthias Gottwald: We got more students who have this integrated view of the needs in research and development and can be more easily integrated into companies, or if they are already working in industry, who benefit from this additional expertise. We are also benefiting from the network which was established during the project – the interaction with various universities and academic groups who are very interesting partners for a continuous dialogue.

IMI Programme office: Would it have been possible to achieve all this without the public-private collaboration brought by IMI?

Ingrid Klingmann: Definitely not. I think the subject of this IMI topic was a unique opportunity for all these course providers to come out of their ivory towers, jointly analyse the deficiencies and figure out how to do it together in the best way. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make this happen.

IMI Programme office: What about the future? Are the outputs generated by the project now self-sustainable?

Ingrid Klingmann: Indeed, we have established a non-profit organisation, the PharmaTrain Federation, and we are continuing some of the work, which is now accessible on the federation website. The group of associated course providers is growing and we are continuously adding new partners. We already have partners in South Africa and Japan, and we are currently talking with universities in the United States and Russia. There is interest on a global level to join our project. From America we hear a lot that they are jealous that we have achieved this in Europe, because this doesn’t exist yet in the US.

Matthias Gottwald: I am very pleased that we have the successor organisation established and that the PharmaTrain assets are protected and can be developed further. We need to continue the dialogue between industry and academic partners on how to shape this kind of education in the best possible way. 

Project factsheet