The TI Pharma Portfolio: FES Projects

Collaborative pharmaceutical research addressing WHO Priority Medicines agenda


Top Institute Pharma (TI Pharma) was created following an invitation to the Dutch government from various industry players and leading academic organizations. The goal was to encourage public-private partnerships and improve pharmaceutical research. The resulting FES-funded (Dutch natural gas reserve fund) research portfolio was launched in 2007 and concluded in 2013, after achieving notable scientific and economic successes.

icon_Money €274 M

funding from FES, businesses and academia

icon_Hands 96

partners & 2000 contributing researchers

About the TI Pharma FES projects

The research topics within the TI Pharma FES-funded portfolio were based on the seminal 2004 WHO report, ‘Priority Medicines for Europe and the World’. TI Pharma managed unique collaborations involving 96 partners, including 26 knowledge institutes; 21 large and 43 smaller industrial players; organizations such as the Dutch Medicines Evaluation Board; and patient organizations. Almost 2,000 people contributed to the program over six years, including 470 newly educated researchers.

Scientific, economic and educational results exceeded expectations. Examples of TI Pharma consortia and their outputs are:

  • BioNovion: a partnership exploring three promising lead molecules, patented following a the successful project TNF (tumor necrosis factor) Ligands in Cancer
  • Novel Antimalarials: targeting an unprecedented parasitic pathway, using compounds that prevent replication of the malaria parasite and its survival in mosquitoes
  • Safe Morphine Dosage for Newborns: using ‘pharmacokinetic’ and ‘pharmacodynamic’ models to develop a new dosage regime

For more information about these and other projects (including the ongoing PK/PD-2 project), please download the TI Pharma Report 'New Tracks to Medicines.

Building health and wealth based on scientific excellence

Project selection and portfolio building. Partnership mobilization and consortium building were central to the work of TI Pharma. It built a far-reaching research portfolio including call management, establishing contracts, and engaging partners. An emphasis on encouraging cross-fertilization between projects was realized byorganizing large semi-annual events to discuss progress in the full portfolio.

Governance and management. The arms’ length environment created by TI Pharma allowed various parties, who would otherwise find collaboration difficult, to work together successfully in joint projects and to discuss highly sensitive topics. TI Pharma helped stakeholders to find partners and financing, combine knowledge and resources, share risks and costs in challenging research areas, and navigate regulatory issues. It provided the third-party governance and day-to-day consortium management needed to build and safeguard necessary trust.

Education and training. Important added value was created for PhDs and post-docs in the TI Pharma cohort via a dedicated ‘on top’ education & training program. This provided researchers with a broader overview of both the drug discovery and the development processes, as well as business & entrepreneurial skills and personal development. The legacy of the education & training program is maintained partly through activities at Learning by Simulation and partly by Leiden Futurelab.

Lygature. The breadth of expertise and experience build up by TI Pharma during the FES-funded project portfolio allowed TI Pharma to successfully start productive new partnerships. Following a merger with CTMM, the new organization, Lygature, is continuing to seek new opportunities to drive public-private collaboration, and to exploit medical technology and pharmacotherapy to increase health, wealth, and social benefits.

Project updates

  • Lygature: pioneering medicine together

    Utrecht, June 9, 2015 - Today, CTMM and TI Pharma, the two largest public-private top institutes in the Dutch top sector Life Sciences & Health, presented their plans and ambition for their joint future during the CTMM + TI Pharma Launch Meeting at the Muntgebouw in Utrecht.

  • Medical innovation: CTMM and TI Pharma join forces

    Leading Dutch technology institutes CTMM (Center for Translational Molecular Medicine) and TI Pharma have joined forces, in a merger that addresses the growing interdependence of medicines and medical technology.

  • Independent evaluation shows the success of TI Pharma

    Seven years of public-private drug research has yielded clinical results, new patents and a cohort of skilled researchers. This was revealed during an evaluation by Top Institute Pharma (TI Pharma), presented at the 2014 Spring Meeting.

    TI Pharma has coordinated 74 projects over the course of seven years, and these have already resulted in useful applications, including a safe regime for morphine dosage in newborns; diagnostic tests for breast cancer; and new clinical protocols for COPD. In addition, TI Pharma has set up entirely new research structures and platforms that will start bearing fruit in the near future. For example, TI Pharma has created a diseases register for rare metabolic conditions; 41 molecular libraries for more rapid generation, validation, and development of candidate drugs; and a platform where health care professionals can safely and responsibly share information that is confidential for privacy-related or competitive reasons. TI Pharma has paid particular attention to the key diseases referred to in the World Health Organization's (WHO) 'Priority Medicines' list. Of the 56 projects targeting these diseases, an impressive 70% have had a major impact and exceeded the predefined objectives.

    Scientific excellence is the cornerstone of successful innovation, and TI Pharma has made no concessions when it comes to quality. Application-oriented research has yielded more than 750 publications, which have been cited almost twice as often as the average in their fields. This score compares well with the impact of top-quality fundamental research financed by organizations such as NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). It is also close to the figures achieved by international leaders such as the Wellcome Trust. A new generation of researchers has been trained within the FES program (fund for strengthening the economic structure). Thanks to TI Pharma, 470 young scientists (223 postgraduate students and 247 postdocs) have experienced working together in a multidisciplinary public-private environment.

    TI Pharma has also been successful in economic terms. Government investments total €137 million over seven years, sourced from FES natural gas revenues. These investments were made on the condition that public and private partners should contribute an equal amount. In fact, TI Pharma actually tripled the government investment straight away: the business sector signed up for no less than €152 million, and expertise centers along with the EU invested a further €136 million. The FES-funded projects have already resulted in 36 registered patents that will help companies to grow autonomously and attract funding. Taking these wider results into account, every euro from the government has yielded not two-three euros but more like six euros.

    Over recent years, TI Pharma has accumulated valuable expertise as an independent initiator, catalyst, and manager of often complex cooperative relationships. The results that have already been achieved, plus those that are on the horizon, make it absolutely clear that the activities within the FES program have been well worth the investment. Thanks to TI Pharma, cooperative ventures have taken off, trust between partners has flourished, and a culture of close and productive cooperation has been created.

    The organization will continue to play this role in the future. Various new projects have been launched over the last two years without any co-financing from the Dutch authorities. In a further development on early April, TI Pharma and the Center for Translational Molecular Medicines (CTMM, a large Dutch PPP focusing on molecular diagnostics and imaging) announced that they would be combining forces by merging, in particular to attract additional European research funds. Increasing demand for successful medical innovation, and its requisite multidisciplinary cooperation, means that TI Pharma can look to the future with confidence.

    Since 2006, TI Pharma has received €137 million from natural gas revenues (FES, Fond Economische Structuurversterking) to be used for speeding up the development of new drugs that will impact society. Through the FES program, in which 95 partners worked together on 74 projects, TI Pharma has contributed tangibly to well-being, welfare, and science in the Netherlands. TI Pharma is one of the pioneers responsible for setting the wheels in motion for a transformation towards cooperation and open innovation in biomedical research.

    TI Pharma, which announced at the beginning of April that it would be merging with the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine (CTMM), will continue to play a pioneering role in future in the development of high-impact medical innovations.

    Download the complete FES report 'New Tracks to Medicines' for more information.