The European Lead Factory, Europe’s largest collaborative drug discovery platform, continues its success story

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Seeding tomorrow’s priority medicines
2 May 2019, Dundee (Scotland, UK)
The European Lead Factory (ELF) secured a total project budget of EUR 36.5 million under the second framework of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). Over the next 5 years, 20 partners in 7 countries will push forward the transformation of potential drug targets to new medicines in the new project ESCulab (European Screening Centre: unique library for attractive biology) under the European Lead Factory brand.

Jon de Vlieger, coordinator of the ESCulab consortium at Lygature, commented: “It’s truly exciting to continue the onboarding of new and innovative proposals for screening and provide high quality starting points for drug discovery to academics and SMEs throughout Europe. In an effort to broaden our scope we are not only looking for target-based approaches, but now also enable phenotypic screens.”

Proven platform for smart new ideas
Universities, research organisations and SMEs have a diverse range of potential drug targets but cannot easily access suitable compound libraries and screening facilities. Pharmaceutical companies need access to high quality targets to bring innovative therapies to the patient. The European Lead Factory combines the large high-quality compound libraries derived from the pharmaceutical industry and the Public Compound Collection and Europe’s leading screening facility with the innovative targets held by academic organisations in a public-private partnership. This offers an ideal platform to translate early-stage fundamental biological research into credible and investable starting points for drug discovery campaigns.
Stefan Jaroch, project lead of Bayer AG, confirms that: “the European Lead Factory has clearly shown how crowd sourcing and collective intelligence can indeed advance biological concepts into drug discovery projects that benefit academia, industry, society and ultimately patients.”

New ideas + New partners = New chances
Over the next five years, the European Lead Factory will initiate 185 new drug discovery projects by screening medically relevant drug targets from European researchers, small and medium-sized enterprises and pharmaceutical industry against the ELF library of 550,000 unique chemical compounds.

The successful concept of the European Lead Factory has already encouraged additional private partners to join. The ESCulab Project welcomes the two pharmaceutical companies Servier and Grünenthal as well as the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), the leading product development partnership in the field of antimalarial drug research and development. Tim Wells, Chief Scientific Officer at MMV, adds: “We are thrilled to participate as ESCulab and the European Lead Factory represent a chance for new partnerships for MMV, both with the EU through IMI and with a variety of highly creative companies. These partnerships give access to a novel, high quality chemical library that we believe is important to be screened against high priority malaria targets.”

The National Phenotypic Screening Centre (NPSC), based within the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee, is another new element for the ELF. NPSC brings their expertise in developing and screening complex biological assays using “high content” phenomics technology. By employing quantitative microscopy or flow cytometry to measure a range of disease-relevant responses in cells this approach has the potential to accelerate the development of safer and more effective medicines.

About the European Lead Factory (ELF)
The European Lead Factory is a pan-European platform for drug discovery that is giving a major boost to drug discovery in Europe by connecting innovative drug targets to a high-quality compound library and high-throughput screening facilities. Please visit to learn more about collaborative drug discovery.

Acknowledgement of support
This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No. 806948: ‘ESCulab: European Screening Centre; Unique Library for Attractive Biology’. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and the Medicines for Malaria Venture.

For the media (not for publication)
Jon de Vlieger, Coordinator European Lead Factory at Lygature and/or Stefan Jaroch, Project Leader of the European Lead Factory are available for interviews. Interview requests and other media questions can be directed towards Anne Kwak (Project Communications Manager European Lead Factory): This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +316-285 394 27.

About the National Phenotypic Screening Centre (NPSC)
NPSC is a world-class facility for automated, high content, phenotypic screening. The goal of the NPSC is to bring advances in industrial drug screening capabilities to academic investigators. NPSC is a partnership between the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh and Oxford. The project was established with an £8M infrastructure award from the Scottish Funding Council to the Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance (SULSA). NPSC operates as an open centre and aims to collaborate globally to develop the physiologically-relevant assays from biologists who are keen to achieve impact by seeing their best research ideas translated from the lab into the drug discovery pipeline.
Learn more at

About the University of Dundee – School of Life Sciences
With more than 900 scientists, research students and support staff from 61 countries and external funding in excess of £50 million per annum, the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee is one of the largest and most productive Life Sciences research institutes in Europe. The University of Dundee is the central hub for a multi-million-pound biotechnology sector in the east of Scotland, which now accounts for 16% of the local economy. Learn more at


Chancellor of the Exchequer visits NPSC

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Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, today visited the University of Dundee where he was given an insight into the world leading research being carried out in Life Sciences.

Dundee is the top-rated University in the UK for biological sciences research. Mr Hammond was given a tour of the School of Life Sciences including the Discovery Centre, the £50million building which was supported by direct funding from the UK Government.

The Chancellor visited  the National Phenotypic Screening Centre, where an interdisciplinary group of scientists and engineers are using innovative, high throughput imaging platforms that can be applied to human, animal, and plant health challenges.

Elements of the tour also included a visit to the Drug Discovery Unit, where work is ongoing to identify potential new treatments for some of the world’s major diseases. Scientists in the DDU developed the potential anti-malarial compound which is currently in advanced tests.

Life Sciences at Dundee has received more than £20 million in UK Government funding in recent years and is now ranked highly on global ratings for scientific excellence and impact of research.

The Chancellor, who also visited the site of the V&A Museum of Design Dundee (a project originated at the University), said:

'The work being done here at Dundee, with the support of the UK Government, is world leading and can have a transformative impact for people around the world, particularly those at risk from tropical diseases such as malaria.

'I have seen today how Dundee has benefitted from our life sciences and creative sector funding. I now look forward to progress being made on the Tay Cities Deal, which will follow the £1 billion already committed by the UK to Scotland’s City Deals so far.”

Professor Julian Blow, Dean of the School of Life Sciences at the University, said, “I was delighted to have the opportunity to show the Chancellor some of the work that has earned Dundee an international reputation as a centre of excellence in life sciences. We are committed to the highest quality teaching and research and ensuring that our work carries real impact. We do this with the help of staff and students who come to Dundee from around the world.”

The NPSC male contraceptive programme featured in MIT Technology Review

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NPSC's phenotypic screening platform is at the heart of efforts to develop a male pill.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged $600,000 towards finding novel approaches to male birth control, which has been awarded to several laboratories worldwide. Different approches are being used to address the challenge, including genetic approaches to identify genes that might be good contraceptive targets, induced pluripotent stem cell approaches to find a better human model for male-contraceptive drug screening, and phenotypic approaches to identify agents that act on sperm function and fertility. NPSC is contributing to this this effort with high throughput biology and novel multiparametric phenotypic screening methods. High content imaging technology will be used to track sperm movement and to capture the “acrosome reaction,” when sperm shed a cap-like structure before penetrating an egg. A drug able to immobilize sperm, or block that reaction, could be a starting point for an effective contraceptive.

Link to full article in MIT Technology Review

2017 03 03 MITreview


Glencoe Software to Provide Data Management Solution OMERO Plus for the National Phenotypic Screening Centre.

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Seattle, WA – January 25, 2015

The technology for viewing, sharing, analysis and management of large sets of images and metadata will enable new collaborations and research.  

Glencoe Software, the world-leading supplier of image data management solutions for biotech, pharma and publication industries, will provide the data management solution OMERO Plus for the newly established National Phenotypic Screening Centre (NPSC). Phenotypic analysis measures the characteristics and behavior of cells, tissues and even whole organisms, allowing comparisons between states such as health and disease, the presence or absence of toxins or drugs, or the effect of genetic mutants. A key challenge for NPSC is the development of automated workflows or “smart assays” that combine robotics with the use of advanced informatics and decision analytics in real-time to screen large numbers of potential drugs as efficiently and effectively as possible. NPSC is a highly collaborative environment with multiple partners worldwide requiring data sharing to be seamless and secure. To deliver on these requirements, NPSC has chosen Glencoe Software’s OMERO Plus data management, storage and integration technology to meet this challenge.


NPSC is a facility run and operated by the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh and Oxford, which are registered UK-based charities. 

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