- IMI to launch new Call for proposals on the coronavirus disease COVID-19
- Networking and the new coronavirus Call for proposals
- IMI States Representatives Group elects new chair and vice-chair
- New cancer therapies offer hope, but there’s still a lot we don’t know – an opinion piece by Pierre Meulien
IMI to launch new Call for proposals on the coronavirus disease COVID-19
IMI will launch a fast-track, single-stage Call for proposals on therapeutics and diagnostics to tackle coronavirus infections. The Call (IMI2 – Call 21) will be launched in the first week of March and focuses on the development of:
- therapeutics to address the current COVID-19 outbreak and/or future coronavirus outbreaks;
- diagnostics to rapidly and reliably identify people infected with COVID-19.
Preventive vaccines are not included in the scope of this Call.
The draft Call text and a Q&A document are available on the Future Topics page of the IMI website.
IMI will hold a webinar on the Call on Wednesday 4 March at 14:30. Registration is already full, however it will be recorded and the recording and slides will be published online on the webinar page. If you are not registered and have a question about the topic or the Call process that you would like IMI to answer during the webinar, please send it to email@example.com by midday on Wednesday 4 March.
Note: All information regarding future IMI Call topics is indicative and subject to change. Final information about future IMI Calls will be communicated after approval by the IMI Governing Board.
Networking and the new coronavirus Call for proposals
The World Health Organization has officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern. With this in mind, IMI2 - Call 21 is being fast tracked, meaning that the deadline for submitting proposals will be much shorter than usual. The Call is also a single-stage Call, meaning EFPIA companies and/or IMI Associated Partners will be part of the applicant consortia from the beginning. All of this means that applicants will have to network extremely fast to build or find a consortium.
The webinar participant lists are a useful source of information on potential partners. As the webinar is full, it is no longer possible to register for the webinar. If you would like to have your contact details included in the participant list for networking purposes, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information by midday on Wednesday 4 March:
- The statement 'Please include the following details including my e-mail address in the participant list published on the IMI website'.
- Your first name, last name, organisation, country, e-mail address, and (in 140 characters max.) what you would bring to the project.
For additional advice on networking, visit our Finding Partners page.
IMI States Representatives Group elects new chair and vice-chair
The IMI States Representatives Group (SRG) elected Marta Gómez Quintanilla of Spain as the new chair of the group at their meeting on 4 February. The new vice-chair is Jan Skriwanek of Germany. The Chair and Vice-Chair are elected for a period of two years.
The SRG consists of representatives from Member States and countries associated with the EU’s research framework programmes. SRG members represent their national governments. The SRG is an advisory group; as well as providing opinions on IMI’s scientific priorities, the SRG is formally consulted on our Annual Work Plans and topic texts before Calls for proposals are launched. Members of the SRG also act as an interface with relevant stakeholder groups within their respective countries. In some countries, members give direct support to stakeholders, giving them advice when applying for our Calls for proposals.
- More information on the work of the SRG, as well as contact details and CVs of all members, can be found on the SRG web page.
New cancer therapies offer hope, but there’s still a lot we don’t know – an opinion piece by Pierre Meulien
'If someone had told me four years ago that IMI would do a topic on CAR-T, I wouldn’t have believed them because the field was so competitive, but that’s when we found a knowledge gap,’ writes IMI Executive Director Pierre Meulien in an opinion piece on IMI's cancer projects. Looking back on the chain of events that led to IMI launching a Call topic on CAR-T cells to fight cancer, Dr Meulien explains: ‘The pharmaceutical companies had hit a brick wall. Oncologists were unsure if they could use the very expensive new therapies. They, along with health authorities and insurers, were put in a situation where an extremely expensive therapy could end in treatment-related death. The market responded; the pharma companies realised they needed to solve this problem and solve it together in a pre-competitive space.’
In the article, Dr Meulien notes that while IMI’s cancer portfolio only counts 11 projects, it is growing as recent Calls for proposals included topics on issues like the tumour microenvironment.
‘Cancer looms large in the imagination because it can strike down young people in their prime. That’s why the first mission in Horizon Europe is going to be on cancer,’ he concludes. ‘There’s a huge expectation that IMI will be contributing to that mission, and that it will help to defragment the cancer ecosystem in Europe, which I think is a good thing.’
- Read the full opinion piece
First batch of real-world data from prostate cancer studies added to big data platform
The first two datasets have been added to the PIONEER big data platform, a major milestone for the IMI project. The researchers want to use real-world data from well-known prostate cancer studies to answer some vital questions about the disease. The first question they hope the data will help answer concerns the kind of variables that affect the prognosis for prostate cancer patients.
The two datasets will be followed by more; other partners are poised to add another 22 anonymised datasets to the platform, and PIONEER hopes that other data custodians, both private and public, will be encouraged to contribute. The ultimate aim is to improve the health and social care for all prostate cancer patients and their families.
Analytics will be run over the lifetime of the project to account for new and updated datasets. Both the OMOP/OHDSI platform for population-based registries and epidemiological research and the PIONEER omics analysis platform for cohort and clinical trial data were set up by The Hyve, a partner in the project.
CANCER-ID hunts for cancer clues in blood samples
Today, many cancer patients have to undergo biopsy surgery to provide doctors with the cell samples they need to diagnose the disease, determine the treatment needed, and then monitor how well a treatment is working. Needless to say, doctors cannot carry out biopsies too often because they are invasive, costly, and risky to the patient. Yet cancer is a dynamic disease and patients would benefit immensely from more regular analyses of their condition.
Cancerous tumours shed cells and fragments of DNA into the bloodstream, and IMI’s CANCER-ID project has developed and validated a range of methods and protocols to detect these ‘circulating tumour cells’ (CTCs) and DNA and analyse them – a so-called ‘liquid biopsy’.
According to project coordinator Dr Thomas Schlange of Bayer, the results revealed that the protocols need to be adapted to different clinical settings – there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. ‘CANCER-ID helped a lot to raise awareness of the necessity to clearly define the intended context of use for each and every liquid biopsy assay in order to be able to deliver meaningful results,’ he says.
CANCER-ID officially ended in December 2019, but its legacy will be carried forward by the newly-created European Liquid Biopsy Society (ELBS), which brings together many project partners and already has strong ties with the global liquid biopsy research community.
‘The story of standardising and benchmarking liquid biopsy assays is far from over,’ notes Dr Schlange. ‘New technologies are being developed and will require the same analytical rigour that has been applied in CANCER-ID to prove their clinical validity and consequent utility.’
The secret life of tumours
In recent funding calls, IMI turned its attention to emerging cancer therapies, seeking better understanding of things like factors behind resistance to treatment and immunotherapy success. Two projects in this field were launched recently – IMMUCAN and imSAVAR.
IMMUCAN aims to analyse the tumour tissue, blood, stool, saliva, and clinical data from about 3 000 patients to hopefully better understand the mechanisms of resistance to current treatments (including immunotherapy) that would enable identification of new therapeutic targets and identify biomarkers that can tell us who is most likely to respond well to what treatment.
imSAVAR is creating tools to help figure out the potential safety or efficacy issues of immune therapies in the early drug development stages. Currently, tests used early in drug development don’t reflect the full complexity of the human immune system, and they tend to be based on a healthy immune system. This means that it is hard to predict how safe or effective immune therapies are before they are tested in humans.