Maximising scarce resources and coordinating research efforts are key elements for success in the rare diseases field. Worldwide sharing of information, data and samples to boost research is currently hampered by the absence of an exhaustive rare disease classification, standard terms of reference and common ontologies, as well as harmonised regulatory requirements. The International Rare Disease Research Consortium (IRDiRC) was launched in April 2011 to foster international collaboration in rare diseases research. The European Commission and the US National Institutes of Health initiated the discussions, and other stakeholders, including other funding agencies, have also been invited to join the consortium. Several national agencies have already expressed their intent to join and Spain was the first country to formally announce its commitment. IRDiRC will team up researchers and funding agencies in order to achieve two main objectives by the year 2020, namely to deliver 200 new therapies for rare diseases and diagnostic tools for most rare diseases.