IMI has launched a fast-track Call for proposals to develop therapeutics and diagnostics for current and future coronavirus outbreaks
What kind of research is IMI proposing to fund?
IMI is looking for proposals that address:
- the development of treatments to rapidly respond to the current COVID-19 outbreak and/or future coronavirus outbreaks – this could include potential drugs that are already at a very advanced stage of development, or an existing, approved drug that could be ‘repurposed’ to treat COVID-19. It could also include drugs that are in the earlier stages of development, as well as strategies to address drug resistance;
- the development of diagnostic tests to rapidly and reliably identify people infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and for use in clinical trials of new drugs.
Preventive vaccines are not included in the Call, as IMI does not want to duplicate the work of other organisations in this area.
Dr Pierre Meulien, IMI Executive Director commented: ‘Collaborative projects involving companies, universities and public bodies have the potential to dramatically accelerate the development of new treatments and diagnostics to tackle this threat to global public health. During the outbreak of Ebola in western Africa, we demonstrated that IMI can rapidly launch projects and deliver results in an outbreak setting, and I am confident that we can do it again for the coronavirus.’
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: 'I welcome the rapid response of IMI to the coronavirus outbreak. This collaboration between the public and the private sectors brings their expertise and resources together in our fight against the coronavirus outbreak. This will help speed up the development of treatments and diagnostics in face of this global emergency and increase our preparedness for future outbreaks.'
Budget, deadline and expected applicants
The Call has a budget of EUR 45 million – this comes from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, and will fund the involvement in the projects of organisations such as universities and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Large pharmaceutical companies that are members of EFPIA and IMI2 Associated Partners will not receive EU funding through this Call, but are expected to contribute to the projects with their own resources (e.g. staff time) and funds.
This is a fast-track, competitive funding Call. Proposals will be assessed by independent experts, and the funding will go to the consortia with the highest scores. Applicants who want to score well will need to demonstrate their ability to develop tests and/or treatments for COVID-19, and maximise the added value of the IMI2 public-private partnership by including contributing partners (e.g. EFPIA companies and/or IMI2 Associated Partner(s)) in their consortium. The deadline for submitting proposals is 31 March 2020.
What else is IMI doing?
Meanwhile IMI projects are already delivering results and resources that are relevant to the current outbreak.
- ZAPI has done a lot of work on Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). As the two viruses are both members of the coronavirus family, many of their findings on MERS (e.g. on potential therapeutics and vaccines) could be relevant for COVID-19.
- COMBACTE-NET has created a network of clinical and laboratory sites across Europe that is already being used for clinical studies into antimicrobial resistance, including clinical trials. They are now mobilising their network to support global efforts to standardise the information gathered from patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
The new IMI Call for proposals is part of the European Commission’s wider response to the coronavirus outbreak, which includes support to the World Health Organization (WHO) for the global preparedness and response plan; support for African countries for rapid diagnosis and disease surveillance; and a EUR 10 million Call for proposals under the Health societal challenge of Horizon 2020.