Where Ideas Grow

i3S joins European project for the discovery of new medicines

The European project IMPULSE - “IMProving User experience, Long-term sustainability and Services of EU-OPENSCREEN”, coordinated by the European infrastructure EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC, recently received funding from the European Commission worth four million euros. Portugal will receive 315 thousand euros, more than 136 thousand will go to the University of Porto - distributed to the Faculty of Sciences (around 75 thousand euros) and the i3S (around 61 thousand euros).

The University of Coimbra (around 52 thousand euros) and the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Lisbon (around 126 thousand euros) are also participating in this project. These four institutions are part of the PT-OPENSCREEN National network, coordinated by i3S, which forms the connection with the European network.

IMPULSE, which will last three years, focuses on developing new models for pre-competitive drug discovery with industry or charities and the growing community of ERIC members will reinforce the sustainability and accessibility of the EU -OPENSCREEN. The project aims to develop, validate and integrate new services in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, new chemical modalities and innovative cell technologies relevant to diseases, as well as models combined with genetic screening based on CRISPR-Cas9/RNAi.

All partners from the EU-OPENSCREEN network participate in this project, a pan-European infrastructure that integrates a research consortium made up of European Universities and Research Institutes from 10 European countries dedicated to the initial phase of the process of discovering new drugs.

This funding, explains António Ribeiro Pombinho, i3S researcher who is coordinating PT-OPENSCREEN, “will allow national science to collaborate very closely with the best researchers in the field at European level and increase the capacity to provide more and better services to respond to increasingly complex, ambitious and innovative research projects with the aim of discovering new medicines”.

It should also be noted that one of the main objectives of the IMPULSE project - validating and integrating new services based on Artificial Intelligence - will be coordinated by Portugal, more specifically by iMed-UL, from the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Lisbon.

About the PT-OPENSCREEN consortium

Created in 2018 with the purpose of gathering knowledge and joining efforts in the search for new molecules with therapeutic purposes and included in the National Roadmap of Infrastructures of Strategic Interest in 2020, the consortium “PT-OPENSCREEN: National Infrastructure for Biological Chemistry and Genetics in Portugal” is made up of 20 national research institutes in the areas of chemistry and biology and led by i3S. PT-OPENSCREEN, adds António Ribeiro Pombinho, “was created to cover all pre-clinical steps for the discovery of new drugs”.

In 2022, this consortium led Portugal's accession to the European infrastructure EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC, an international non-profit organization - based in Berlin, Germany - that brings together state-of-the-art platforms for identifying compounds with therapeutic potential and improving of the chemical structure of these compounds in order to be more effective and with fewer unwanted side effects.

“Joining this European structure allowed Portuguese researchers to access the most advanced technologies, establish contacts with the best European scientists in the field, obtain financing through participation in European projects and have access to the European library of 100 thousand chemical compounds”, highlights António Ribeiro Pombinho.

Four of the institutions participating in PT-OPENSCREEN, nominated by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, were evaluated by international experts to be integrated as official partners within the European infrastructure, which allows them to apply directly for funds from the European Commission. In this way, less than two years after Portugal joined EU-OPENSCREEN, more than 500 thousand euros were raised for national science in European projects.

Investment in national infrastructures, emphasizes António Ribeiro Pombinho, “will allow us to be more competitive and secure more international projects, provide more transnational access services and, consequently, raise more funds to invest in Portugal. Thus, we can aspire to the development of scientific and technological areas that encourage collaborations with the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, including the creation of new companies based on the intellectual property created, and also the retention of specialized human resources”.