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Autism, diabetes, cancer & pain in new IMI Call for proposals


Half (€174 million) of the Call’s budget comes from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme and will fund the participation of organisations like universities, small-to-mid-sized companies, and patient groups in the projects. The other half comes from EFPIA companies and IMI Associated Partners, including JDRF, T1DExchange and the Helmsley Charitable Trust (for the diabetes topic) and Autism Speaks and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) for the autism topic.

Pierre Meulien, IMI Executive Director commented: ‘The Associated Partners in this Call are all contributing their own funds and resources to IMI. Furthermore, their involvement allows IMI to link in with other international initiatives tackling shared challenges like diabetes and autism. Their contributions are testament to the attractiveness of IMI’s public-private partnership model. Our experience shows that by bringing together the expertise, energy and creativity of groups from different sectors in our projects, it is possible to make progress in even the most challenging areas.’

Diabetes and low blood sugar: Many diabetes patients experience hypoglycaemia, when their blood sugar levels become too low. Symptoms include behavioural changes, memory loss and confusion, which can result in accidents and falls and, in the worst cases, in hospitalisation or death. This topic aims to add to our understanding of hypoglycaemia, with the ultimate goal of making it easier for people with diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels.

Prostate cancer and big data: Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, and accounts for 9% of all cancer deaths among men in the EU. The goal of this topic is to identify and use existing real-life patient data to improve outcomes for prostate cancer patients. This topic falls under the IMI Big Data for Better Outcomes (BD4BO) programme.

Pain: Patients with a wide range of conditions may experience pain in the short or long term, and all too often, painkillers prove ineffective. This topic is split into three complementary subtopics. These address the need for patient reported outcomes; the need for better biological markers to facilitate the research and development of treatments; and the challenge of understanding chronic pelvic pain.

Paediatric clinical trials network: Less than half of all authorised medicines commonly used in children have been properly tested in this group. Running clinical trials involving children is hard. There are many operational challenges, such as finding enough patients, and there is no organised, EU-wide clinical trial infrastructure. This topic aims to change that by creating a large, collaborative paediatric network to facilitate the development of drugs for the benefit of children, parents and society.

Biomanufacturing: Animal cell technology is now widely used in drug development, and key to the quality of the final product is the cell culture process. The objective of this topic is to develop high-throughput tools and methods to monitor and manage the cell culture processes during both drug development and manufacture.

Genes and disease: So-called transport proteins are the gate-keepers of our cells, effectively controlling the flow of nutrients and other molecules across the cell membrane. This topic focuses on the solute carriers, which are the largest class of transport proteins, counting over 400 members. The genes that encode solute carrier proteins have been implicated in a number of diseases, including diabetes and cancer, yet many remain to be studied in detail. This topic aims to deliver new tools and methods that will make it easier for scientists to study the solute carrier gene family and develop drugs that target them.

Patient perspectives in research: The goal of this topic is to provide a framework and guidance for all stakeholders on the best ways to meaningfully engage patients at different stages of the medicines lifecycle.

Autism: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect around 1% of the population and are characterised by difficulties in social interactions and communication as well as repetitive behaviours. Efforts to develop effective treatments have so far been unsuccessful, partly because of differences between different groups of patients. This topic will consolidate European clinical research in this area by creating a Europe-wide infrastructure to accelerate and tailor the recruitment of patients for clinical trials, and by validating biomarkers. 

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About the Innovative Medicines Initiative

The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is working to improve health by speeding up the development of, and patient access to, the next generation of medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need. It does this by facilitating collaboration between the key players involved in healthcare research, including universities, pharmaceutical companies, other companies active in healthcare research, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), patient organisations, and medicines regulators. This approach has proven highly successful, and IMI projects are delivering exciting results that are helping to advance the development of urgently-needed new treatments in diverse areas.

IMI is a partnership between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry, represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Through the IMI 2 programme, IMI has a budget of €3.3 billion for the period 2014-2024. Half of this comes from the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. The other half comes from large companies, mostly from the pharmaceutical sector; these do not receive any EU funding, but contribute to the projects ‘in kind’, for example by donating their researchers’ time or providing access to research facilities or resources.