- New indicative Call topics published
- IMI turns 10!
- Have your say on the future EU budget
- Pierre Meulien presents IMI at the European Parliament
- IMI and ECSEL team up on digital healthcare
- IMI open Call on Ebola – final deadline approaching
- DRIVE-AB recommends ecosystem approach to drive antibiotic development
- IMIDIA identifies novel signature of type 2 diabetes
- K4DD findings suggest new strategy for drug discovery
- We are more prepared for future Ebola outbreaks – an interview with the Mofina project coordinator
- APPROACH screens first patient
- RADAR-CNS recruits first participants in depressive disorder study
- Thanks to EMTRAIN, we got out of our ivory towers – an interview with project coordinators
New indicative Call topics published
The following topics are under consideration for inclusion in future IMI Calls for proposals:
- Targeted immune intervention for treatment of non-response and remission
- Non-invasive clinical molecular imaging of immune cells
- Development of a platform for federated and privacy-preserving machine learning in support of drug discovery
- Centre of excellence – remote decentralised clinical trials
Drafts of all four topics, as well as a document highlighting opportunities for SMEs, can be downloaded from the Future Topics page of the IMI website. All information regarding future IMI Call topics is indicative and subject to change, pending approval by the IMI Governing Board.
IMI turns 10!
It’s now 10 years since IMI launched its first Call for proposals back in 2008. To mark this birthday, and to showcase the achievements of our projects, we will be running a communication campaign over several months, starting in the spring. A highlight of the year will be the IMI Scientific Symposium in October, which will offer young scientists from IMI projects the opportunity to present their work. Other events and activities are also planned, and details will be published on IMI’s website and our social media channels in the coming months.
Have your say on the future EU budget
All citizens and organisations are invited to respond to the European Commission’s consultation on the future of the EU budget in the area of investment, research & innovation, SMEs and the single market. The EU uses long-term budgets, dubbed multiannual financial frameworks (MFF), covering several years. The EU is now preparing the next MFF, which will start in 2021. In addition to the consultation on research and innovation, there are consultations on cohesion; security; migration and asylum; strategic infrastructure; and values and mobility. All consultations are available in all official EU languages and the deadline for submitting responses is 8 March 2018. The Commission will summarise the replies and take them into account when designing comprehensive proposals for the post-2020 MFF and the next generation of financial programmes.
Pierre Meulien presents IMI at the European Parliament
IMI was in the spotlight at the January meeting of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control (‘CONT’) Committee. The committee is responsible for the so-called ‘discharge procedure’, during which the European Parliament scrutinises EU bodies (including joint undertakings like IMI) and verifies that they are spending EU funds correctly and according to the principles of sound financial management. To do this, they analyse IMI’s accounts, as well as reports from the European Court of Auditors (ECA), among other things. The latest report from the ECA gives IMI a clean opinion. Nevertheless, they do make some recommendations on how IMI can improve its procedures further. During the latest CONT meeting, IMI Executive Director Pierre Meulien explained how IMI is implementing these recommendations. He also highlighted how successful IMI’s projects are, citing the example of PROactive, which worked on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Last December, the European Medicines Agency issued a draft qualification opinion on the tools - if this goes through, it will mean that the EMA believes these tools are good enough to be used in future clinical studies of COPD treatments.
- Watch the video of the CONT meeting (Dr Meulien starts speaking around 34 minutes in).
- Learn more about IMI’s funding model and how we manage our funds.
IMI and ECSEL team up on digital healthcare
Digital technologies are becoming increasingly important for medical research and healthcare. With this in mind, IMI and ECSEL, the joint undertaking on electronic components and systems, are exploring ways of deepening cooperation in the area where electronics and healthcare overlap. A workshop in December 2017 brought together representatives of IMI and ECSEL and their projects, with the goal of identifying areas of common interest and gaps that need to be addressed. IMI and ECSEL will continue to work on these areas in 2018, with a view to establishing a more structured collaboration. ‘Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionise both medical R&D and healthcare,’ said IMI Executive Director Pierre Meulien after the workshop. ‘This meeting with ECSEL represents a step towards future collaboration models that would make it easier for Europe’s leading health and digital researchers to work together to deliver the innovative digital health solutions that patients, researchers and healthcare systems need.’
IMI open Call on Ebola – final deadline approaching
IMI launched the open Call on Ebola and related diseases (IMI2 – Call 8) in December 2015 with a total budget from IMI of EUR 70 million. To date, two projects have received funding through the Call and a third is in the pipeline. The final deadline for submitting proposals is 15 March 2018, and there is still EUR 25 million in the pot. The scope of the Call is broad; consortia are invited to submit proposals covering diverse aspects of Ebola research, including the development of vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatments. The resulting projects should be able to capture emerging scientific advances and turn them into healthcare interventions that will increase our readiness to react to future outbreaks of Ebola or related diseases.
Find out more
DRIVE-AB recommends ecosystem approach to drive antibiotic development
A mix of economic drivers and incentives is needed to stimulate antibiotic development, according to the final report of IMI’s DRIVE-AB project. The report, based on input from diverse stakeholders, highlights four incentives that would be the most effective in stimulating the antibiotic pipeline while also ensuring that critical antibiotics are used sustainably and are accessible to all who need them. The incentives picked out by the report are:
- Grants: non-repayable funds for R&D given to academic institutions, companies and others;
- Pipeline coordinators: governmental or non-profit organizations that closely track the antibiotic pipeline (or subsets thereof), identify gaps, and actively support R&D projects both financially and technically to fill these gaps;
- Market entry rewards: a series of financial payments to an antibiotic developer for successfully achieving regulatory approval for an antibiotic that meets specific predefined criteria to address a defined public health need, with obligations for sustainable use, equitable availability and supply;
- Long-term supply continuity model: a delinked payment to create a predictable supply of important generic antibiotics.
All of the recommended incentives would include mandatory provisions for equitable access and sustainable use in order to ensure these critical medicines are available to patients who need them globally, and remain effective over time. ‘The models are meant to be complementary and don’t operate in isolation. Instead, they’re designed to form an ecosystem that maximizes R&D while ensuring access and sustainable use of new antibiotics over time,’ said Christine Årdal, DRIVE-AB partner and Senior Advisor at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
Read the project’s press release
IMIDIA identifies novel signature of type 2 diabetes
The IMIDIA consortium has identified a novel signature of 19 genes whose activity is faulty in people with type 2 diabetes. The findings are published in the journal Diabetologia. In people with type 2 diabetes, the islet cells in the pancreas do not respond adequately to produce the hormone insulin, leading to elevated blood glucose levels and an inability to keep blood glucose levels stable. The scientists arrived at the signature after analysing and comparing gene activity levels in the largest collection of pancreatic islet cells from diabetic patients, people with pre-diabetes, and non-diabetic healthy individuals. Their work uncovered 19 genes with ‘dysregulated’ activity levels in the cells taken from people with type 2 diabetes. Of these, 10 had been identified in previous research, but 9 had never been picked up as being dysregulated in pancreatic islets before. Interestingly, the genes are not dysregulated in cells taken from people with pre-diabetes, suggesting that their altered activity levels are the consequence of, rather than the cause of islet cell failure. ‘We believe that our data provides novel molecular insights into what is going wrong in diabetic beta cells and sets new standards for how studies in this field shall be carried out in the future,’ said Michele Solimena of Dresden University of Technology, one of the leading investigators of the study. ‘Ultimately, we are confident that our approach will provide a new view for how exposure of beta cells to nutrient overload wears their function overtime, hence impairing their ability to satisfy the excessive demand of insulin to maintain metabolic homeostasis.’ Looking to the future, the researchers are keen to find out which genes are dysregulated before the onset of diabetes; this is a focus on the new IMI project RHAPSODY.
K4DD findings suggest new strategy for drug discovery
IMI’s K4DD project has shed new light on the factors that influence interactions between medicines and their targets. The findings, published in Nature Communications, could open up new avenues for drug discovery. Drugs work by binding with proteins that are implicated in disease and so preventing them from working. Much drug discovery work focuses on optimising the interactions between drugs and their targets. For a long time, researchers thought that the more tightly a drug binds with a target protein, the more effective it will be. The K4DD project set out to study in detail the kinetics of the interactions between drugs and targets. In this paper, the team applied state-of-the-art experimental and computational approaches to study the kinetics of anti-cancer medicines designed to block the action of a drug target called heat shock protein 90 (HSP90). Blocking the action of HSP90 can disrupt the cell cycle and so stop the growth of cancerous tumours. X-ray crystallography revealed that the binding pocket of HSP90 is lined by a region that can take the shape of a helix or loop, depending on the inhibitor under study. Notably, the drugs that bind with the comparatively flexible helix remain bound for longer. ‘We were really surprised when we found out that an important contributor to the long residence times was the greater mobility of the helical region of the binding pocket when the inhibitor bound,’ said Rebecca Wade of the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies, one of the co-authors of the paper. Using as an analogy a ski boot with an adaptable inner liner that continually adjusts to the foot, rhe researchers suggest that scientists can therefore consider less rigid protein targets and identify molecules that stabilise more mobile forms of the protein upon binding.
We are more prepared for future Ebola outbreaks – an interview with the Mofina project coordinator
IMI’s Mofina project developed a portable device which can test for deadly Ebola in 75 minutes or less, eliminating the need to take suspected Ebola patients to treatment centres far away of their communities. In an interview with the IMI Programme office, the project’s coordinator, Edmund Newman of Public Health England, explains how Mofina’s success will save lives, and help contain future outbreaks. ‘We now have a portable platform for testing all of the different types of Ebola virus that can run on a battery pack for up to 8 hours,' said Newman. 'It is a mobile platform that will give you a test result for all different types of Ebola within just over an hour, 75 minutes. It doesn’t require a big lab set up in the middle of the field somewhere. It is literally a finger prick of blood into an automated machine that is not much bigger than a shoe box and so it can easily be carried around and taken to the patient for testing. The device has been fully validated and verified for all the strains of Ebola that it tests for. It is commercially available and ready for the next outbreak.'
Read the full interview
APPROACH screens first patient
IMI osteoarthritis project APPROACH has screened the first patient in a clinical study on osteoarthritis of the knee that will pave the way for more personalised treatments for the disease. Over the next two years, 300 patients across Europe will undergo assessments on pain, mobility, cartilage and bone condition, and inflammation. Information gathered will help the project to identify biological markers (biomarkers) of disease progression. ‘Currently, all osteoarthritis patients are treated the same. The quality of clinical trials and personalised treatments by doctors will improve tremendously when disease subtypes can be diagnosed. Biomarkers will help to push this forward,’ said Anne Karien Marijnissen, coordinator of the APPROACH clinical study. The project’s seven-strong Patient Council was influential in the set up of the clinical study, collaborating on communications and study design (especially with reference to the burden on study participants) and reviewing the research protocol and patient informed consent forms.
RADAR-CNS recruits first participants in depressive disorder study
IMI’s RADAR-CNS project has recruited the first participants in the depression component of its study. The aim of RADAR-CNS is to develop new ways of measuring major depressive disorder, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (MS) using wearable devices and smartphone technology. The first depression study participants have now received FitBit Charge 2 devices as well as smartphone apps. The participants will wear the FitBit for up to 24 hours a day, allowing it to capture information on their heart rate, sleep quality, and physical activity levels. Every few weeks, they will answer a short series of questions via the RADAR-CNS apps. Faith Matcham, post-doctoral research associate at RADAR-CNS, hopes to recruit around fifty more people over the coming months. ‘We’re so excited to be starting recruitment – this study will provide important information about how useable the RADAR-CNS platform is, as well as providing us with data which might be invaluable for improving our understanding of the course of major depression,’ she said. The epilepsy component of the study got underway in June last year, and the project team hopes to start recruitment for the multiple sclerosis study soon.
Thanks to EMTRAIN, we got out of our ivory towers – an interview with project coordinators
EMTRAIN established a pan-European platform for education and training covering the whole life cycle of medicines research, from basic science through clinical development to pharmacovigilance. In an interview with the IMI Programme Office, industry co-coordinator Matthias Gottwald of Bayer and academic coordinator Michael Wolzt of the Medical University of Vienna, explain what the project achieved and how it benefitted both industry and the academic community. ‘Thanks to this project, the academic community had a great opportunity to get out of their ivory towers and see what the industry actually does,’ said Wolzt. ‘We learned that we have a lot in common and that we can work together quite effectively.’
Read the full interview