FAIRplus sets out to improve data sharing and reuse in life science research

The FAIRplus project has kicked-off to improve data management and data governance in European health research.

The FAIRplus project has kicked-off to improve data management and data governance in European health research. The project aims to increase the discovery, accessibility and reusability of data from selected projects funded by the EU’s Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI), and internal data from pharmaceutical industry partners. It will also organise training for data scientists in academia, SMEs and pharmaceutical companies to enable wider adoption of best practises in life science data management.

Janssen Pharmaceutica NV is the pharmaceutical industry lead of the project with coordination provided by ELIXIR.  The project involves 22 pharmaceutical, small company and academic partners from nine European countries. It is funded by the IMI as a public-private partnership and will run for three and a half years (2019-2022). European countries. It is funded by the IMI as a public-private partnership and will run for three and a half years (2019-2022). The Integrative Biomedical Informatics group of GRIB (IMIM – UPF) led by Laura I. Furlong and Ferran Sanz participates on this project and the main tasks foreseen are the interface with IMI projects in which we are involved (Open PHACTS, eTOX, eTRANSAFE, iPiE, EMIF), the involvement in the definition of the FAIRification processes of data in the following domains: preclinical toxicology, human safety, clinical data, drug impact in the environment, gene-disease associations and the organisation of events and other dissemination activities.

The Innovative Medicine Initiative has a total budget of €5.3 billion and has launched over 100 individual projects across all areas of pharmaceutical research and drug development. To take advantage of the wealth of life science data produced by these projects, these data need to be readily available to other researchers, so that they can find them and integrate them with the outcomes of their own experiments.

The gold standard in data management is to make life science data FAIR – Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. The FAIRplus project will develop methodology and tools to increase the FAIR-ness of data and demonstrate the added value of the FAIR-fication process on selected IMI projects and datasets from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Even though pharma companies within the FAIRplus consortium may not be able to share their data widely, their data scientists will use the methodology and tools internally to improve their data management procedures.

“Too often, life science data are stored in isolated silos, with inconsistent annotation or in incompatible formats. Most of the data from IMI projects are still stored in project-specific proprietary databases and provide very little opportunity for reuse either outside of the project, or beyond its duration,” says Serena Scollen, Head of Human Genomics and Translational Data at ELIXIR and the Project Coordinator. Additionally, the FAIR SME & Innovation programme will disseminate the project outcomes to SMEs, enabling wide data reuse, and fostering an innovation ecosystem around these data. “FAIRplus will help researchers and data managers make their data FAIR and equip researchers in academia and industry with the knowledge and tools for effective data management in future projects,” adds Scollen.

Abel Ureta-Vidal, Chief Product Officer and Founder of Eagle Genomics, one of the Associate Partners of the project said:  “As an SME that enables our industry clients to integrate in our enterprise software platform their internal data with open data, Eagle Genomics is critically dependent on access to open, interoperable life-science data. FAIRplus will give us an opportunity to provide feedback on the FAIR methodology and better understand the project outcomes. Translating the FAIR principles into a well-defined FAIR standard will be a great step forward in data discovery, usability and ultimately exposing its relevance and value.”

“The FAIRplus team believes that unlocking the collective knowledge contained in IMI projects and internal pharma datasets is a huge opportunity to advance European science,” says Scollen. “Linking and combining data across life science domains will provide new insights into the mechanisms of diseases and therefore improve drug discovery and drug development success rates. FAIR data is also essential in applying artificial intelligence methods to datasets from different sources and scientific domains. Through FAIRplus we are looking to build an efficient and portable FAIRification pipeline to deliver a foundation knowledge base to support future research for decades.”

About the Innovative Medicines Initiative

The Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI) is a partnership between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry, represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). It is working to improve health by speeding up the development of, and patient access to, the next generation of medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need.


FAIRplus project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 802750. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA Companies. This communication reflects the views of the authors and neither IMI nor the European Union, EFPIA or any Associated Partners are liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

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