ELF promotes new discoveries
through open innovation and crowdsourcing

The European Lead factory

The European Lead Factory (ELF) is a collaborative drug discovery partnership working to deliver innovative drug starting points via open innovation and crowdsourcing. The ELF 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 facilities of industry; 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 hit-to-lead programmes.

The European Lead Factory assets

As of 2019, the current ELF compound library consists of approximately 535,000 compounds. This includes >350,000 EFPIA compounds, supplemented by around approximately 190,000 compounds of the Public Compound Collection, developed by leading chemistry SMEs and academic groups. The European Screening Centre harbours skilled experts in the field of assay development, Ultra-High-Throughput & High Content Screening, hit finding, and compound logistics, with its four participating medicinal chemistry SMEs taking the lead in the resynthesis activities for reconfirmation. Finally, a bespoke informatics system, the Honest Data Broker, has been developed to help manage the intellectual property of the contributing assets to enable the development of resulting leads.

Achievements to date:

Since 2013, more than 200 drug discovery programmes have been run at the ELF. These high-quality programmes 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.

Over 100 publications have come out of ELF collaborations and more than 20 programmes are now available for partnering. Spin-off companies Scandicure and Keapstone Therapeutics were created based on 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 drug 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 work forward. A comprehensive overview of the impact of the ELF was recently published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.

Looking ahead

As of February 2022, the ELF has closed its open calls for screening proposals. The partnership aims to continue its efforts and is actively working to achieve sustained funding to reopen regular calls for proposals in the future.
Previously only open to European researchers eligible for IMI funding, the European Lead Factory (ELF) is now, for the first time, offering its services to charities and foundations around the world, through its charity funded screening programme.
With this move, the ELF and partners will:

  • Make the ELF assets and infrastructure open and accessible to the larger drug discovery community
  • Add to global health and well-being by leveraging partnering opportunities in Europe and beyond
  • Explore uncharted biological territory through the sourcing of new targets, pathways, and phenotypes to address unmet medical needs

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).

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