Europe’s €3.3 billion drug research program, the Innovative Medicines Initiative, has named its new executive director after a year-long search.
Pierre Meulien, currently president and chief executive officer of Genome Canada, will take up the post in mid-September, the IMI said on Monday.
In the interim, IMI, the world’s largest public-private partnership in health research, will continue to be headed up by Irene Norstedt, the European Commission official drafted last December when the recruitment process failed to deliver. The previous executive director completed his term nine months ago.
Meulien’s background includes experience in academia, industry, and research-funding organizations on both sides of the Atlantic.
The vacancy is among several in EU health policy that have left players from consumer and patient advocates to industry frustrated at the lack of senior-level direction.
The European Medicines Agency lacks a permanent chief, the Commission still has no director general for health months after the last one abruptly resigned, and there is no director of the European Centre for Disease Control after another bungled recruitment process there.
Genome Canada is a not-for-profit organization that finds new uses for genomics and invests in large-scale science and technology, including in health.
Previously, Meulien was chief scientific officer for Genome British Columbia, founding CEO of the Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre (now Molecular Medicine Ireland, linking the three medical schools and six teaching hospitals in Dublin to build a critical mass in molecular medicine and translational research). He has also worked for Aventis Pasteur as director of research in France and senior vice-president R&D in Canada, and at French biotechnology company Transgene.
He has a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Edinburgh and worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute Pasteur.
“To bring innovative medicines to the public efficiently and in a cost effective manner requires a new way of thinking and IMI represents a new model, involving all stakeholders, operating at an unprecedented scale and having the potential for real impact benefiting patients and health systems across Europe and at the same time solidifying a dynamic industrial base in this territory,” Meulien said in an interview.
Meulien, who is Irish, served 10 years ago as the Irish representative on the committee that would eventually become the IMI states’ representatives group.
His contract will run for an initial period of three years, after which the IMI governing board may decide to extend the term for up to four years.
He has pledged to resign from all his current positions and not hold any interests incompatible with the job.
“The excellent results coming out of IMI’s projects contribute to improving public health and are stimulating innovation and job creation in Europe,” European research commissioner Carlos Moedas told POLITICO. “Pierre Meulien’s invaluable experience will help IMI deliver on its ambitious objectives.”
Norstedt will return to her post as head of unit in the European Commission’s department of research and innovation when Meulien takes up his duties.