Research projects

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is involved in and supports a number of research projects with academia, learned societies and research groups. 

For more information on EMA's approach to contributing to research, see Support to research.

Many of the research projects that the Agency is involved in form part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). This is Europe's largest public-private initiative, which aims to speed up the development of better and safer medicines for patients. IMI supports collaborative research projects and builds networks of industrial and academic experts in order to boost pharmaceutical innovation in Europe.

Table of contents

Improving regulatory and methodological standards

Strengthening the monitoring of benefits and risks

From September 2009 until June 2015 EMA coordinated the IMI project Pharmacoepidemiological Research on Outcomes of Therapeutics by a European Consortium (PROTECT). PROTECT was a collaborative European project that comprised a programme to address limitations of current methods in the field of pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacovigilance, made up of a multinational consortium of academics, regulators and pharmaceutical companies.

PROTECT was divided into a number of work packages, concentrating on topics such as:

  • establishing a framework for pharmacoepidemiology studies;
  • improving signal detection from spontaneous reports, electronic health records and clinical trials;
  • examining the use of medicines by pregnant women;
  • developing graphical representations of the benefits and risks of medicines.

EMA staff also contributed to:

Regulatory science

The Agency is a key leader in the development and application of regulatory science, the areas of science that are used in the assessment of the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines throughout their life-span, as well as the scientific areas applied in regulatory decision-making.

Regulatory science includes basic and applied biomedical sciences, including genetics, pharmacology, biostatistics, clinical-trial methodology and epidemiology, and social sciences such as decision sciences, risk assessment and communication sciences. It aims to contribute towards the development of standards and tools to be used in the regulation of medicines.

EMA is involved in the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS), an international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation established in 1949. CIOMS facilitates and promotes international activities in the field of biomedical sciences. The Agency takes part in:

Adaptive pathways

The concept of adaptive pathways foresees either an initial approval in a well-defined patient subgroup with a high medical need and subsequent widening of the indication to a larger patient population, or an early regulatory approval (e.g. conditional approval) which is prospectively planned, and where uncertainty is reduced through the collection of post-approval data on the medicine's use in patients. The EMA has invited companies to participate in a pilot project on adaptive pathways, and published a framework to guide discussions on individual pilot studies. The pilot project builds on earlier work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Biomedical Innovation (CBI) to investigate the feasibility of this approach.

The Agency is also leading Accelerated Development of Appropriate Patient Therapies: a Sustainable, Multi-stakeholder Approach from Research to Treatment-outcomes (ADAPT SMART), a project implemented under the IMI 2 programme. The project aims to establish a platform for coordinating activities related to 'Medicines Adaptive Pathways to Patients' and enable stakeholder dialogue in this field.

Benefit-risk methodology

The Agency is working on a project to develop standard decision-making methodologies to make the assessment of the benefits and risks of medicines more consistent, more transparent and easier to audit. Until the end of 2011, this was carried out together with experts in decision theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and with the University of Groningen.

Addressing failure rates in medicine development

The Agency and the Netherlands Medicines Evaluation Board are working on a project to analyse the failure rate of innovative drugs in the current regulatory system, focusing on delivering evidence and credibility for regulatory reform and policy recommendations. The project forms part of the Escher project, which brings together experts from Utrecht University and partners from the pharmaceutical industry. This project aims to assess the extent to which the following aspects are associated with marketing-application failure:

  • the design and different phases of the development plan;
  • the clinical outcome;
  • clinical relevance.

Improving risk communication on medicines

As part of its commitment to improving communication with its stakeholders on the benefits and risks of medicines, the Agency invited Dr Frederic Bouder, an independent expert from King's College London, to carry out a study looking into the expectations and attitudes of the Agency's stakeholders on its communication activities, which was finalised in 2011:

Bringing expertise together

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The Agency plays a key role in forming and managing networks, bringing together expertise and enabling knowledge sharing. It has launched and manages two major such networks:

  • European Network of Centres for Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacovigilance (ENCePP), a network of excellence in collaboration with European academics to improve the independence, transparency and research standards in the field of post-authorisation research, particularly observational research. Its goal is to further strengthen the post-authorisation monitoring of medicines in Europe by facilitating the conduct of multi-centre, independent, post-authorisation studies focusing on safety and on the benefit-risk balance, using available expertise and research experience across the EU;
  • European Network of Paediatric Research at the European Medicines Agency (Enpr-EMA), a network of research networks, investigators and centres with recognised expertise in performing clinical studies in children. Enpr-EMA aims to foster high-quality ethical research on the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines to be used in children. It does this through networking and stakeholder collaboration with members from within and outside the European Union (EU).

The Agency also took part in Patient Registries Initiative (PARENT) Joint Action, which aimed to support EU Member States in developing comparable and coherent patient registries in fields of identified importance such as chronic diseases, rare diseases and medical technology. It intended to rationalise and harmonise the development and governance of patient registries, enabling analyses of secondary data for public-health and research purposes. The project, which was partly funded by the European Commission, ran between May 2012-2015.

Helping to set the research agenda

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The Agency played an important role in setting the research agenda under the European Commission's Seventh Framework programme (FP7) funding tool, which ran from 2007 until 2013. The programme provided funding from a number of health-related topics such as infectious diseases, personalised medicines and public heath. EMA provided recommendations on the types of research to be funded. 

The Agency's Paediatric Committee (PDCO) also provided recommendations for FP7 funding of studies into off-patent medicines, with a view to the submission of an application for a paediatric-use marketing authorisation. Preparations are currently underway for the European Commission's current funding programme Horizon 2020. For more information, see Priority list of off-patent medicines.

The Agency also collaborates internationally with other regulatory agencies, such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada.

Improving medicines for children

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The Agency is involved in two work packages of the Global Research in Paediatrics – Network of Excellence (GRIP) project, an FP7-funded project that aims to improve the health of children globally, by stimulating and facilitating the development and safe use of paediatric medicines:

Investigating vaccines

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Representatives of the Agency lead or take part in a number of projects looking at the development, benefits and risks of vaccines. These include:

For more information on the ADVANCE project, see the ADVANCE website. 

Addressing antimicrobial resistance

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The Agency is concerned about the development of antimicrobial resistance, particularly resistance to antibiotics. It works in collaboration with its European Union (EU) and international partners in a number of initiatives aiming to limit the development of resistance. These include:

Since 2010, the Agency has also been leading a project collecting information on the sale of veterinary antimicrobials across the EU since 2010 called the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption.

Advising and observing projects

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The Agency has an advisory role in a number of projects. These include:

The Agency also acts as an observer for projects, including:

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