ELF promotes new discoveries
through open innovation and crowdsourcing

The European Lead Factory: a unique public-private partnership that delivered innovative drug discovery starting points via open innovation and crowdsourcing for several years. The European Lead Factory was established in 2013, when several pharmaceutical companies, universities and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) joined forces to create a high-quality compound library, and screening infrastructure referred to as the European Screening Centre. Combining the best of several worlds – the expertise, experience and state-of-the-art industry-standard operations; the innovative strength of academic institutions; and the agility and creativity of SMEs – the ultimate goal of the ELF has been to boost early drug discovery and seed new high-quality chemical starting points for drug discovery across a wide-range of therapeutic areas. The conclusion: this was certainly achieved over the past decade.

Achievements to date:

Since 2013, more than hit discovery programs have been completed at the ELF. These  programs have established a risk-balanced portfolio of innovative disease targets, the results of which are increasingly being made public, and expected to have a long-lasting impact on the development of new medicines. Over 100 publications have come out of ELF collaborations and more than 20 programs are now available for partnering. Spin-off companies Scandicure and Keapstone Therapeutics were created based on the work performed at the ELF, and most recently, the ELF has helped identify two drug candidates for cancer treatment that have now progressed to phase 1 clinical trial testing. Furthermore, work at the ELF has contributed to the discovery of a new class of small molecules that has the potential to reverse antibiotic resistance for conditions such as pneumonia and sepsis. The various testimonials of ELF partners and collaborators give a taste of how the partnership has helped push their research forward. A comprehensive overview of the impact of the ELF was recently published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.

Running from 2013-2023, through the support of two consecutive grants from the IMI (Grant no: 115489) and Grant no          806948), the publicly co-funded project was the largest collective drug discovery platform in Europe. It has been a true example of successful public-private collaboration, bringing together the best of industry and academia to drive the development of new medical solutions for patients in need.

Since 2013, more than 200 drug discovery programs have been run at the ELF. These high-quality programs have led to a balanced portfolio of innovative disease targets, the results of which are increasingly being made public, indicating the long-lasting impact that the ELF can generate.

Looking ahead

Even though public access to the ELF compound library and infrastructure has come to an end,  we know that many startup and biotech companies still need chemical hit matter to accelerate their drug discovery programs. With the knowledge and expertise present at PPSC and partly gained within ELF (PMID: 32734803), our professional screening setup and of course our own 300k IP-free small molecule library, we can still accelerate early drug discovery in the coming years with the ultimate goal of developing new medicines for a healthier society.

We want to thank all partners and participants in this collaboration and the impactful cooperation over the last decade. It was our privilege to perform all the crowd-sourced ultra-High Throughput Screening campaigns within ELF.

This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 806948: ‘ESCulab: European Screening Centre; Unique Library for Attractive Biology’. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA and Medicines for Malaria Venture.

The ELF concept

Take a look at this award-winning animation explaining the ELF concept and how it helps to boost drug discovery.


Your target, your results

The European Lead Factory welcomes drug targets in all disease areas. Learn how you can benefit and give your drug discovery research a flying start!

Ultra-High-Throughput Screening

Screening of compounds to assess their activity is funded by the European Lead Factory and carried out at the Pivot Park Screening Centre’s facilities in Oss, placing our facilities at the heart of the European Lead Factory.

More small molecules

Access to an exceptional collection of small molecules is the starting point for drug target researchers in academia and SMEs. Over 300,000 optimised industrial research compounds have been contributed by seven pharmaceutical companies. An all-new compound collection has also been built over time, based on syntheses by SMEs and academic institutions and exploiting the expertise available across all consortium partners. The goal is a further 200,000 compounds, creating a Joint European Compound Library (JECL) of up to 500,000 compounds.

Visit the European Lead Factory website for more information and results. The European Lead Factory has received support from the Innovative Medicines Initiative.


The partners from the European Lead Factory

The European Lead Factory builds on an established partnership between public and private organisations. It is designed to promote innovation by ensuring in-depth collaboration, honest brokerage and enhanced communication.

The EU Lead Factory has 20 current international partners and 14 former partners. It capitalises on the innovation of academia, the agility of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the experience and resources of large pharmaceutical partners that are members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

European Lead Factory Logo