IRDAC, the European Commission's Industrial Research and Development Advisory Committee, has published its opinion on life sciences in the Fifth RTD Framework Programme. The opinion calls for the creation of a single life sciences programme, integrating all aspects of research, dissemination and exploitation of results and international cooperation. This programme should concentrate on well focused and targeted issues. It should support projects relating to biotechnology and public understanding, as this will contribute to competitiveness, wealth creation and employment generation. Training must be a critical element of the future programme, according to IRDAC, in particular to encourage cross-fertilization between industry and academia. There should also be continuity with on-going research initiatives started in previous Framework Programmes, such as sequencing efforts in targeted organisms, cell factories and pluridisciplinary approaches. The programme should include enabling mechanisms to facilitate the role and participation of SMEs, while it should contribute to exploiting European success beyond Europe, in developing countries for instance. The opinion also calls for links with the European venture capital community to be strengthened, and integration of information technologies to be made a priority. The IRDAC opinion concludes by suggesting a limited number of research areas to be supported under the programme in the following fields: - Healthy and functional foods; - Pharmaceuticals: building on Europe's strengths; - Biochemicals and the cell factory; - Forestry/woods; - Fisheries industry; - Agriculture/farming; - Medical and health research. The proposed programme would be split into two main groups of activities. Firstly, a limited number of targeted RTD objectives in the fields above, and secondly, a core of enabling or horizontal activities to underpin the research efforts.