- Proudly launching the IMI 2 programme
- IMI launches €49 million Call for proposals on diabetes and retinal diseases
- IMI 2 Open info Day – Registration opens in August!
- Webinars on IMI 2 – Call 1 topics and IMI rules & procedures
- Article highlights role of IMI in vaccine research
- Faster Cures paper highlights benefits and challenges of research by consortium
- News from the projects
Proudly launching the IMI 2 programme
On 9 July, the IMI 2 programme officially got underway. To celebrate the launch of IMI 2 and the other Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs), the European Commission held an event in Brussels featuring speeches by Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Commissioners Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Neelie Kroes and Siim Kallas, as well as Italian Minister for Education, Universities and Research Stefania Giannini and Jerzy Buzek MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. A panel discussion moderated by Robert-Jan Smits, Director General of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Research & Innovation, brought together a number of industry leaders linked to the various JTIs for a lively debate on the future of public-private partnerships in Europe. At the event opening, Commission President Barroso said: ‘I am delighted to see how the first generation of JTIs have already delivered some very concrete results. […] The ongoing projects under the Innovative Medicines Initiative – which is becoming even more important given our ageing population – have, for instance, increased the speed of development in diabetic drugs and are helping to predict better drug toxicity.’ Other JTIs launched on 9 July are: Bio-based Industries (BBI), Clean Sky, Electronic Components and Systems (ECSEL), Fuel Cells and Hydrogen (FCH), Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) and Shift²Rail.
IMI launches €49 million Call for proposals on diabetes and retinal diseases
On 9 July IMI launched its first Call for proposals under IMI 2. The Call features two topics.
The topic ‘Translational approaches to disease modifying therapy of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM)’ has a total budget of just over €35 million. The goal of this project will be to advance our understanding of type 1 diabetes and address the lack of tools and technologies to detect people’s risk of developing this condition.
The second topic of this Call is ‘Discovery and validation of novel endpoints in dry age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy’. Dry age-related macular degeneration is a progressive disease in which patients gradually lose their central vision, while diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. The goal of this €14 million project is to develop new methods and tools that accurately reflect the impact of these diseases on patients’ ability to engage in everyday activities.
Deadline for submitting proposals: 12 November 2014
IMI 2 Open info Day – Registration opens in August!
Join us for IMI’s Open Info Day on the first IMI 2 Calls for proposals on Tuesday 30 September at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Brussels. The agenda includes an overview of IMI 2’s funding and intellectual property (IP) rules, tips on applying for funding under IMI 2, and workshops on the first IMI 2 Call topics, including the chance for participants to pitch for partners. IMI staff will be on hand to answer questions relating to the new Call topics and the IMI 2 application procedures. Online registration will open in early August via the event webpage. The registration form includes a networking tool that will allow you to pre-arrange specific networking meetings during the breaks.
Webinars on IMI 2 – Call 1 topics and IMI rules & procedures
Potential applicants for the first Call for proposals under IMI 2 will have another opportunity to learn more about IMI’s new rules and procedures via a webinar on 3 September at 14:30 CEST. Registration is open through the IMI website.
The first webinar on IMI rules and procedures took place on 14 July. Dedicated webinars have also been organised on both topics of IMI 2 - Call 1: ‘Discovery and validation of novel endpoints in dry age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy’ and ‘Translational approaches to disease modifying therapy of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM)’.
- All webinar presentations are available for download on the IMI website
Article highlights role of IMI in vaccine research
Vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures in existence, and many diseases that used to cause death and disease on an immense scale are now rare. Nevertheless, developing vaccines and monitoring the benefits and risks they bring remains a challenge. Now, an article published in the Journal of Health Policy and Outcomes Research demonstrates how public-private partnerships (PPPs) such as IMI are well placed to bring together the different stakeholders involved in vaccine research. Written by IMI Executive Director Michel Goldman and Scientific Officer Angela Wittelsberger, the paper explains: ‘Successful collaboration among such a diverse set of stakeholders often requires the adoption of a different mind-set by the different parties, and this is why a neutral trusted platform is useful to facilitate exchange and interaction.’ The authors add that IMI ‘offers such a platform with the facilitation of genuine partnerships between public and private players as one of its key missions’. The paper cites IMI’s ADVANCE project as an example of how PPPs can bring together groups working on vaccine benefit-risk assessments. It also discusses IMI’s 10th Call for proposals, which focuses on the need for tests that are better at predicting the effectiveness of new flu vaccines.
Faster Cures paper highlights benefits and challenges of research by consortium
‘Research by consortium provides benefits to biomedical science, but the model needs further optimisation before it can be fully integrated into the biomedical research pipeline.’ This is the conclusion of a recent analysis of biomedical research consortia published in Science Translational Medicine. The article, by Mark Lim of Faster Cures, draws on a study of 369 biomedical research consortia (including projects launched by IMI). Pointing out that the life cycle for biomedical R&D is longer and risker than for other sectors, the paper notes that consortia represent ‘valuable frameworks’ through which stakeholders can mitigate risks, coordinate expertise, and leverage resources. ‘Collaborations are knotty endeavours, and integrating the right partners is not easy,’ the paper concludes. ‘Nonetheless, collaboration is becoming increasingly essential for translating medical innovations to patients, and the consortium is one way of raising the tide for all boats in the biomedical research waters.’
News from the projects
QuIC-ConCePT findings advance personalised cancer medicine research
A new technology to analyse scans of cancer patients predicts how their disease will progress. This is the key outcome from a recent study published in Nature Communications that was supported in part by IMI’s QuIC-ConCePT project. The findings could help to advance personalised treatments for cancer patients and also improve clinical trials of cancer drugs. Cancer patients regularly undergo imaging scans, yet until recently much of the exquisite detail in these scans was lost in the analysis. Recently, a new technique called radiomics has allowed researchers to put numbers to the scans, effectively creating a detailed ‘blueprint’ of the tumour. In this study, researchers used radiomics to analyse 440 aspects of over 1 000 computed tomography (CT) scans from patients with lung or head and neck cancers. Their findings demonstrate that radiomics can be used to predict far more accurately how the disease will progress in a patient, and suggest that it could be used to determine which medicines may be most appropriate for each individual patient. In addition, the results imply that radiomics could be used in clinical trials to identify the patients most likely to benefit from a new medicine and to monitor the impact of the medicine on the disease. QuIC-ConCePT is now working to confirm its findings with additional high quality data from the EFPIA companies in the project.
Teenage binge drinking can be predicted, EU-AIMS-supported study shows
An analysis of a combination of children’s life experiences, personalities and brain structures at age 14 can predict which youngsters will be binge drinking by the age of 16, according to research published in the journal Nature and supported in part by IMI’s EU-AIMS project. The findings are now being transformed into simple tests to ensure that children at risk of alcohol abuse can be identified early and offered targeted help. The EU-AIMS project focuses on paving the way for new treatments for autism spectrum disorders. Professor Gunter Schumann of King’s College London explains why this new research is relevant for the project. ‘Our work is a paradigmatic model for the identification and development of prediction models for different mental health conditions, included autism-related disorders, as it takes into account all possible risk factors for disease in a systematic way,’ he said.
NEWMEDS tool spots patients involved in more than one clinical trial
IMI project NEWMEDS has launched an online tool that alerts those running a clinical trial if a patient is already enrolled in another trial elsewhere. Dubbed DupCheck, the tool is set to both improve patient safety during clinical trials and enhance the validity of trial results. Clinical trials do not accept patients who are already involved in another trial. This is partly to protect the patient - interactions between experimental drugs can be harmful and even fatal. Avoiding multiple trial enrolments also helps to ensure the validity of the trial results – a patient could be given the placebo in one trial and an active ingredient for the same condition in another. Alternatively, if a patient is taking active treatments in two trials, both trials will attribute any improvements (or adverse reactions) to their own trial drug. The scale of the multiple enrolment problem is not well understood, although some studies suggest that around 5% of patients taking part in large trials may be enrolled in the same trial twice, but at different locations. There is no systematic data yet on enrolment across studies. DupCheck was created to tackle the issue. Those running trials can input or upload data collected into DupCheck, and the system alerts users of any potential duplicates. All patient data is encrypted and access to the site is restricted to those working on clinical trials. According to NEWMEDS scientist Jonathan Rabinowitz of Bar Ilan University in Israel, DupCheck is ‘the only solution to this problem that has been qualified by a regulatory agency’. The tool is currently in free beta and is being systematically incorporated by companies participating in NEWMEDS and other companies globally across therapeutic areas. Trial sponsors can enrol at www.dupcheck.org. ‘The benefits of DupCheck for the advancement of medical research are commensurate with the growing number of studies using it,’ says Professor Rabinowitz. ‘It is precompetitive collaboration taken to a new level. Every sponsor wants others to use it.’
PROactive trials for lung disease patients underway
IMI’s PROactive project on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has launched a number of trials and studies using its innovative tools for accurately capturing the impact of COPD on patients’ physical activity levels. COPD patients typically report difficulties carrying out daily activities, but measuring the level of difficulty accurately has proven extremely difficult. IMI’s PROactive project has developed hybrid tools to address this, which combine physical activity monitors (which are worn by the patient) with diaries that patients fill in on a daily or weekly basis. The project is now validating its tools in a range of studies across Europe, while also investigating ways of encouraging patients to become more active. For example, the project is trialling a telecoaching intervention programme designed to boost patient activity. Patients wear a step counter which sends information on a patient’s activity levels to a coach by mobile phone. The patients then receive personal physical activity goals to help them on the path to a more active lifestyle. Studies like this are important because promoting physical activity among COPD patients is not easy. Other studies trialling the PROactive tools include PHYSACTO, which is investigating the impacts of a combination of medication and exercise training on the disease, and a study in Spain which is studying the effect of providing patients with safe walking circuits in public spaces and around towns. Two other studies (info here and here) are using the PROactive tools in patients with COPD. Looking to the future, the project plans to launch further studies that will generate sufficient data for medicines regulators to formally assess the usefulness of the PROactive tools as measures of effectiveness in clinical trials.
LifeTrain professional development framework launches website
IMI’s education and training projects have launched a website for LifeTrain, their new pan-European framework for continuing professional development in the biomedical sciences. The LifeTrain framework will enable biomedical professionals to work collaboratively across disciplines and national boundaries. Furthermore, LifeTrain’s unique collaborative approach aims to provide the critical mass to make a major contribution to strengthen the skills and competencies of European biomedical professionals in a rapidly changing environment. In particular, LifeTrain will:
- support course providers in developing and delivering excellent training that meets the needs of biomedical professionals;
- help professional/scientific bodies to identify synergies with other professions and help them to support their members’ changing needs;
- give employers the tools to build an agile workforce, better equipped to serve the needs of healthcare research, development and practice;
- support medicines development professionals in enhancing their employability and accelerating their career progression.
The signatories to the LifeTrain platform include multinational pharmaceutical companies, research infrastructures, professional and scientific bodies, higher-education institutes and research institutes. They have agreed on certain common principles and pledged to continue to collaborate to implement LifeTrain.
- Learn how you can benefit from the LifeTrain framework
Open PHACTS successor organisation announces first members
IMI’s Open PHACTS project has announced the first three members of its successor organisation, the not-for-profit Open PHACTS Foundation. GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen and Roche were the first members to commit to ensuring the sustainability of infrastructure developed by the Open PHACTS project – a freely-accessible drug discovery platform that integrates publicly-available data for applied life science research.
The Open PHACTS community includes academia, industry, application developers and semantic web experts and has delivered a powerful cloud-based data platform demonstrating the effectiveness of robust data integration in answering real scientific questions. Collaboration within existing and future consortia will engage the scientific community and involve relevant applied life science R&D.
- Read the project’s press release
OncoTrack partners found spin-off company
Researchers working on IMI’s cancer project OncoTrack have teamed up to launch a spin-off company called Cellular Phenomics & Oncology Berlin-Buch GmbH (CPO). Founded by Christian Regenbrecht and Reinhold Schäfer of Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Jens Hoffmann of German biotech company Experimental Pharmacology & Oncology, CPO will establish a library of patient-derived, three-dimensional cancer cell cultures that can be used in drug research and development. CPO will also work with other partners to develop the technology to identify personalised treatments for cancer patients. In the beginning, the company will focus on developing models of melanoma (skin cancer), breast cancer, lung cancer, head and neck cancers, and colorectal cancer. Christian Regenbrecht and Reinhold Schäfer are the academic leaders of OncoTrack’s cell culture work package, and the experience of creating cell cultures of human colorectal cancers under the project will be valuable when setting up the company’s workflows. All three scientists will remain with their original organisations and so will continue to work on OncoTrack. Meanwhile, CPO may well join the project in its own right.
Take advantage of the eTRIKS data curation service
IMI’s eTRIKS project is inviting IMI and other projects to use its data curation services for public studies. eTRIKS’s goal is to promote the effective management and sharing of translational research information for IMI projects. Public data repositories provide access to large amounts of data, but getting full value from them can be difficult. eTRIKS uses the open source tranSMART tool to provide access to different types of biological and clinical data in a well-structured environment. The project places a special emphasis on data cleaning and standardisation to deliver high data quality and improve cross-study compatibility.