IMI has announced funding opportunities in cancer, tuberculosis, vaccines, psoriatic arthritis and drugs based on proteins. Webinars on all topics, rules, procedures and opportunities for SMEs will be held from 22-31 January 2020.
IMI2 – Call 20 has a total budget of EUR 273 million. IMI will contribute EUR 133 million to the projects funded under the Call; these funds come from Horizon 2020 and will support the participation in the projects of organisations such as universities, small and medium-sized enterprises, and patient groups. EFPIA companies and IMI Associated Partners will contribute EUR 140 million, mostly as ‘in kind’ contributions (e.g. staff time, access to equipment, etc.).
Pierre Meulien, IMI Executive Director commented: ‘Beating cancer is a priority for the new European Commission, and the cancer-focused topics in this Call for proposals will contribute to that goal by bringing together leading experts from universities, small companies, patient groups and diverse industries including pharmaceutical and medical technology companies. In this Call we are also tackling a major global health problem - tuberculosis - and will be developing new ways of treating this chronic disease and hopefully reducing the spread of antibiotic resistance in TB. ’
What kind of research will be funded?
Understanding the rare cancer cells behind drug resistance
Once a cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it is very hard to cure it. Often, patients respond well to a drug for a time before the cancer becomes resistant to it, and this drug resistance is a major cause of cancer mortality. The source of this drug resistance lies in rare cancer cells called ‘drug tolerant persister’ cells, or DTPs. Studies show that DTPs survive drug treatments by altering the activity of certain genes. The goal of this topic is to add to our understanding of DTPs, including their genetic sequences and microenvironment, and to develop tools to collect and analyse them. It will focus on non-small cell lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer but may also carry out studies on other adult and childhood cancers.
Is proton therapy better than radiotherapy for treating certain cancers?
Radiotherapy plays a key role in the treatment of many cancers. However, as it can cause side effects in surrounding organs, the dose is limited meaning that treatment takes longer and can be less effective. In contrast proton therapy delivers a higher dose of radiation that is more focused on the tumour itself, limiting damage to other, healthy organs. The goal of this topic is to assess the usefulness of proton therapy as a treatment compared to radiotherapy, using oesophageal cancer as a case study. Radiation therapy boosts survival rates for oesophageal cancer, but the disease still kills 500 000 people worldwide every year, meaning further improvements in treatment are urgently needed. In the long term, the results of this topic should also prove useful for other types of cancer.
Innovation and treatment for tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is the leading infectious cause of death worldwide, killing around 1.5 million people annually. Treatment consists of a combination of drugs taken for at least six months, or even longer in patients whose disease is resistant to frontline treatments. The long treatment time, coupled with the side effects of some drugs, lead some patients to stop taking their antibiotics, and this contributes to drug resistance. Identifying new treatment combinations that could shorten the treatment time and tackle drug resistance is difficult and time-consuming. The goal of this topic is to develop and carry out innovative clinical trial designs to identify new treatment combinations using drugs that have already undergone initial studies in humans. The topic will also develop and evaluate new technologies to monitor and enhance treatment adherence. The topic is part of IMI’s Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Accelerator programme.
Accelerating vaccine development and manufacture
Vaccines are a huge public health achievement, but developing a new vaccine is very costly, time consuming and risky. Recent years have seen advances in academia and biotech companies in the fields such as immunology, big data and artificial intelligence. The aim of this topic is to incorporate these advances into the vaccine industry, and to develop biological and mathematical models that are better at predicting how well a vaccine will work. Ultimately, the hope is that this will accelerate and de-risk the development of new vaccines.
Improving the lives of people with psoriatic arthritis
Around 20-30% of people with the immune disease psoriasis go on to develop arthritis. However, all too often, patients experience symptoms for many years before they are diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. Furthermore, the treatments for psoriatic arthritis do not work for all patients. The aim of this topic is to deliver tools that will allow doctors to diagnose psoriatic arthritis earlier, and even predict which psoriasis patients are at greatest risk of developing arthritis. It will also shed new light on factors that could indicate how a psoriatic arthritis patient’s disease will progress over time, and this will allow the development of personalised treatments.
Focus on the quality of drugs based on proteins
Many new medicines are based on proteins, and these have dramatically improved the lives of people with a range of diseases. However, ensuring the quality of protein drug products both during and after manufacture is far from easy. If stored or handled inappropriately during transport, or at the hospital, pharmacy or patient’s home, the proteins can break down, compromising the safety and efficacy of the product. This topic has two objectives: firstly, to improve our understanding of how protein drugs are handled in the real world and the effect this has on product quality; and secondly, to develop guidelines, processes and training to improve the way protein drug products are handled by different stakeholders.