Meet IMI’s newest projects
A number of new IMI projects have got underway in the last few months, bringing the total number of IMI projects to over 130. The new projects result from IMI2 – Calls 13, 14 and 16 and include:
- CONCEPTION, which aims to create a system to provide reliable, evidence-based information on the safety of medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding;
- BIOMAP, IMI’s first project on skin diseases;
- NEURONET, which is facilitating collaboration among the projects in IMI’s large neurodegeneration portfolio;
- PD-MitoQUANT, which is investigating the role of mitochondria (the powerhouses of our cells) in Parkinson’s disease;
- MELLODDY, which will apply machine learning to drug discovery;
- the first projects under IMI’s AMR Accelerator.
The ‘projects and results’ section of the IMI website offers a wealth of information on our projects. In addition to a factsheet on every project, we also feature success stories and a catalogue of tools produced by our projects that are accessible to the wider scientific community. Finally, an interactive map allows visitors to explore where IMI has project partners and how much funding they receive.
Advanced therapy medicinal products: the right time for hope?
Gene therapy, somatic-cell therapy and tissue engineering (collectively known as advanced therapy medicinal products or ATMPs) are all technologies that have been the subject of research for decades. Today, they finally seem to be ready for the prime time, especially in treating single-gene disorders like haemophilia, cystic fibrosis and thalassemia, and of course cell therapies for cancer. However, hurdles remain at every stage of the product research and development cycle and, unless there is more sharing of information and more inter-industrial collaboration, society will not reap the benefits of these potentially groundbreaking treatments. In an opinion piece in Pharma Boardroom, IMI Executive Director Pierre Meulien cooperation among stakeholders can help to overcome some of these barriers. He points to the Call topics in IMI2 – Call 18 as examples of collaboration. ‘Both of these topics demonstrate that the pre-competitive landscape changes over time […] and that public-private partnerships are excellent vehicles that can both de-risk investments for the private sector and accelerate access to innovation for patients in need,’ he concludes.
Preparedness key to preventing Ebola outbreaks, says top African scientist Nicolas Meda
In 2014, an Ebola outbreak kicked off in the west African nation of Guinea and quickly spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, putting other countries in the region on high alert. Epidemiologist and public health expert Professor Nicolas Meda of Burkina Faso played a key role in his country’s response to the epidemic, and participated in the IMI Ebola vaccine project EBOVAC2. In an interview with the IMI Programme Office, he looks back on the experience and sets out the lessons learnt and actions taken since then to prevent future outbreaks. In the interview, he also highlights the benefits of participating in IMI. ‘In EBOVAC2, it’s pretty much a global collaboration. So this is a challenge and an opportunity to improve our knowledge and our skills on the conduct of vaccine trials,’ he explains. ‘Because as I said, we did a lot of clinical trials, but they were for medicines. This time it was a trial for a vaccine and this experience was important and exciting for the team.’ He also urges countries to boost the capacity of their health systems. ‘At the political level there are measures that every country should put in place to be able to do surveillance well and detect cases early,’ he insists. ‘If you detect early, you have a good chance of limiting the epidemic. But if you don’t have this capacity in the health system to do surveillance and detect early, you will always have big epidemics that spread. So strengthening health systems so that they are capable of detecting and responding rapidly is essential.’
RESOLUTE releases Knowledge Base on solute carrier proteins
IMI’s RESOLUTE project has published the RESOLUTE Knowledge Base, an online database that brings together in one place information on a group of proteins called solute carriers (SLCs). SLCs are transport proteins that play an important role in controlling what molecules are allowed into and out of our cells. Although they have been implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and schizophrenia, SLCs have not yet been studied in detail. RESOLUTE aims to change that. Currently, the Knowledge Base, which is freely accessible to the scientific community, comprises high quality, reliable information from publicly available sources. ‘Public domain data on SLCs from multiple sources is compiled, connected and integrated, allowing SLC researchers to rapidly get an overview on the current knowledge on any human SLC transporter,’ explains Professor Giulio Superti-Furga, RESOLUTE academic coordinator from CeMM - the Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. ‘This is a new milestone achieved by the RESOLUTE consortium and it is our first pillar to foster research on solute carriers. It will also allow RESOLUTE to become a reference hub for SLC research and open knowledge worldwide.’ In the coming years, RESOLUTE will add further information to the Knowledge Base from public resources as well as data generated by the project. RESOLUTE is due to end in 2023, but CeMM has committed to maintaining the Knowledge Base for a further 5 years after the end of the project.
WEB-RADR issues recommendations on use of social media for pharmacovigilance
Generally speaking, social media is currently not suitable for detecting new safety issues in marketed medicines, according to a new paper published by the WEB-RADR project in the journal Drug Safety. Nevertheless, it may be beneficial in certain specific circumstances, and advances in technology may make it more useful in the future. Once a medicine is on the market, drug companies and medicines regulators monitor its safety in the general population in the long term. To do this, they rely on patients and healthcare professionals to report suspected problems (known as adverse drug reactions or ADRs). However, many suspected ADRs go unreported. WEB-RADR set out to determine if social media could be used to identify ADRs. To do this, the team studied some 4.2 million tweets and Facebook posts as well as over 42 000 posts from over 400 online patient fora. Overall, they conclude that social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are not recommended for detecting potential safety issues. However, social media may prove useful in certain niche areas, such as exposure to medicines during pregnancy and the abuse (or misuse) of medicines. Furthermore, advances in technology could mean that social media could be used as a source of information on ADRs in the future.
Working on iPSCs? EBiSC2 wants your opinion
IMI’s EBiSC project has established a centralised, not-for-profit human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) bank providing researchers across academia and industry with access to scalable, cost-efficient and consistent, high quality iPSCs for use in research and medicines development. Since its creation in 2014, the bank has grown considerably and now provides a large range of iPSC lines and services to academics, non-profit organisations and companies. Projects generating iPSCs can also make their cell lines sustainable by depositing them in the EBiSC catalogue, ensuring secure long-term storage and simplified access and distribution.
The new EBiSC2 project builds on the achievements of the original EBiSC project, including improving its services and providing new iPSC lines and differentiated cell products. To ensure the project continues to offer products and services that are relevant to the scientific community, EBiSC is running a survey. The survey is open until the end of October.