- Pierre Meulien highlights IMI’s work in the FT
- IMI’s Ebola+ programme featured on Euronews and at European Parliament event
- Catch up on our session on SMEs at BIO-Europe
- Isabelle Bekeredjian-Ding named as Chair of IMI Scientific Committee
Pierre Meulien highlights IMI’s work in the FT
‘The EU’s Innovative Medicines Initiative has proved an important force for change over the first decade of its existence in streamlining the complex, expensive and risky process of medicines development,’ writes IMI’s Executive Director Pierre Meulien in an opinion piece in the Financial Times. In the article, he outlines some IMI project achievements over the past 10 years, including PROactive (in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), EU-AIMS and AIMS-2-TRIALS (in autism spectrum disorders), EPAD (Alzheimer’s disease), and WEB-RADR (which created an app for reporting medicines side effects). He also highlights how IMI is addressing the challenges and opportunities of ‘big data’, most notable through the Big Data for Better Outcomes programme. Looking to the future, he writes: ‘IMI will deepen and broaden its engagement with other sectors in health research, including digital, imaging, diagnostic, medtech and other emerging technologies. IMI will also further strengthen links with global initiatives on antimicrobial resistance and autism. These challenges are too big to be limited to individual regions. We need collectively to take advantage of the great science being funded in North America and Asia to avoid duplication, optimise synergies and accelerate progress.’
IMI’s Ebola+ programme featured on Euronews and at European Parliament event
IMI’s Ebola+ programme was featured this month on the Euronews Futuris programme. In an episode entitled ‘Vaccine research offers fresh hope against Ebola’, published on 12 November, the channel presented the work done by IMI’s EBOVAC projects which are assessing, through clinical trials in Europe and Africa, the safety and tolerability of the ‘prime-boost’ Ebola vaccine regimen.
Deborah Watson-Jones, coordinator of IMI’s EBOVAC1 project also presented that project’s accomplishments at the high-level conference ‘EU research and innovation in our daily life’, which took place on 27 November at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels. The goal of the event, co-hosted by EP President Antonio Tajani and Commissioner for Research Carlos Moedas, was to present the impact of EU-funded research and innovation projects on the lives of EU citizens. In her speech, Watson-Jones praised the crucial role of European funding in the fight against Ebola, including the research projects funded by IMI’s Ebola+ programme. She emphasised the importance of continuing research, noting that ‘Ebola has not gone away… The recent outbreak in the DRC continues to spread and this time it seriously threatens neighbouring countries like Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan who are having to deploy complex and costly prevention measures.’ Read more
Catch up on our session on SMEs at BIO-Europe
Over 100 people attended the session on EU funding opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at BIO-Europe in Copenhagen in early November. Organised jointly by IMI and the European Commission, the session showcased the latest opportunities under Horizon 2020, including the dedicated SME programme and the collaborative research schemes, as well as IMI. There was also a presentation of European Investment Bank programmes of relevance to SMEs. Finally, representatives of two SMEs that have experience of participating in EU research and innovation / IMI projects told their stories and offered first-hand advice for SMEs considering applying for funding. Among other things, they highlighted the importance of building and maintaining a strong network, and ensuring that any projects you join are aligned with your company strategy. All presentations can be found on the event web page.
Isabelle Bekeredjian-Ding named as Chair of IMI Scientific Committee
Isabelle Bekeredjian-Ding, Head of the Microbiology Division at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut in Germany, has been named as the new Chair of the IMI Scientific Committee. Professor Bekeredjian-Ding has expertise in infectious diseases and in the regulation of vaccines and biomedicines. She has been a member of the Scientific Committee since 2016. The new vice-chair is Dolores Cahill, Professor of Translational Science at University College Dublin in Ireland. The Scientific Committee comprises 11 members and 2 ad hoc members. They provide strategic science-based recommendations to IMI and are also formally consulted on our topic texts – which are based on the scientific priorities – before our Calls for proposals are launched.
IMI patient engagement projects sign memorandum of understanding
Two IMI projects focusing on patient engagement, PARADIGM and PREFER, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance collaboration between the projects and to maximise results. The MoU outlines how the projects will work together and share ideas. While PARADIGM is broadly focused on patient engagement at three points in the research and development process, PREFER looks at how and when it is best to perform and include patient preferences in decision making during the medical product life cycle. Through the MoU, the two projects hope to identify areas of mutual interest; identify any gaps that are hindering progress; establish collaborative activities to address these gaps; and share knowledge and data. The projects will also mutually participate in project events and use each other’s communications channels to promote news and results. In a joint statement, the projects write: ‘There is an ample opportunity to leverage the work of these projects, to avoid duplicate efforts as well as maximise results.’
COMBACTE launches platform on antimicrobial resistance in Europe
COMBACTE projects have launched a unique European platform that allows users to explore and visualise data on antibiotic resistant infections in humans and animals across Europe. The website, which is freely accessible, brings together epidemiology data from 32 European countries on the priority list of pathogens released by the World health Organization in 2017. It also includes data on more recent outbreaks and emerging cases of resistance to newly-developed antibiotics. Data is displayed via colour-schemed maps that allow users to easily track things like the setting, resistance rates, sample sizes and data sources. If users register, they can also select and download data. In a statement, the project explains: ‘The goal is to give industry, policy makers, and public an easy tool to use in order to understand the trends and the epidemiology of antimicrobial resistant infections across Europe using a One Health approach. The platform provides an interactive space, which combines multiple sources and allows to overcome language barriers.’
ENABLE selects first antibiotic drug candidate
Since its launch in 2014, the ENABLE project has helped researchers in universities and small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) to progress potential antibiotics through the challenging earlier stages of drug development. Now, the project has selected one potential antibiotic it has worked on, apramycin, as a clinical candidate. The clinical potential of apramycin was discovered by researchers at the University of Zurich who set up a spin-out company, Juvabis, to develop it further. Juvabis joined ENABLE in 2016. Thanks to the collaboration with ENABLE, the Juvabis team has now been able to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of apramycin in animal models for various infections, including infections caused by some of the more dangerous drug-resistant bacteria. This prompted the project to select apramycin as a clinical candidate; the plan is to prepare for a Phase I clinical trial application by the end of 2018. ‘We are pleased that our collaboration with ENABLE has further highlighted the potential of apramycin in the treatment of complicated systemic infections in humans,’ says Sven Hobbie, who leads the programme. ‘The nomination by ENABLE of apramycin as a drug candidate will accelerate the preclinical and clinical development of our product into a life-saving medicine.’
ENABLE is still accepting Expressions of Interests from organisations with interesting molecules that could benefit from the project’s unique platform. For more information, visit the project website and watch their new video.
TRISTAN reveals impact of drug side effects in lungs
Drugs used to treat a wide range of conditions may carry a higher risk of side effects for the lungs than previously thought. This is the result of a review by IMI’s TRISTAN project published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. The team notes that while the drugs studied work well for most patients, doctors should be more aware of the potential risks to their patients’ respiratory systems. They also note that more research is needed in this area. The team arrived at their findings after analysing 156 papers with data on 6 200 patients taking 27 drugs to treat diseases like arthritis, cancer and heart disease. Their focus was on cases of drug-induced interstitial lung disease (DIILD). Interstitial lung disease occurs when lung tissue become scarred, making it hard for patients to breathe. The review showed that around 3-5 % of interstitial lung disease cases are caused by DIILD.
‘Though this area is not well researched, we can say that the side effects of drugs on the lung are much more widespread than previously thought,’ said John Waterton of the University of Manchester. ‘We do know it affects a considerable number of people, which is why we want to develop better imaging tests to pick up any lung problems before they become serious. It’s important to stress that patients can safely continue to take their medication - but it’s also important that doctors monitor and assess them closely for side effects in the lung.’ The lead author of the paper, Nazia Chaudhuri of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, added: ‘With newer drugs coming on the market this is an increasing yet under recognised problem and we need better ways of detecting these side effects before they cause harm.’ In conclusion, the authors highlight the areas where further study is needed and point out that the TRISTAN project will work on these.
ADVANCE releases blueprint to support vaccine benefit/risk studies
IMI’s ADVANCE project has published a blueprint of a framework to rapidly provide scientific evidence of the benefits and risks of vaccines that are on the market. The document is the culmination of the project’s work and is designed to help health professionals, regulatory agencies, public health institutions, vaccine manufacturers and the general public make more informed decisions on the benefits and risks of vaccines. Vaccinations are a highly successful public health intervention. However, as they are used primarily in healthy people (often children), expectations on their safety and effectiveness are particularly high. ADVANCE was set up to pave the way for a framework to make it easier and faster for people to assess vaccine benefits and risks. The project’s blueprint has two parts. Firstly, there is a comprehensive manual for the future use of the framework. This sets out the steps needed to use the framework, the tools that can be used, and how to disseminate results. The second part of the blueprint addresses the future sustainability of the network through four different scenarios. The blueprint was written by ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) based on the outputs from almost all work packages of ADVANCE. It has undergone a comprehensive consultation process with representatives of the main stakeholders interested in the assessment of benefits and risks of vaccines, including the ECDC Advisory Forum. It has also gone through a public consultation on ECDC website.