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IMI announces COVID projects, boosts funding pot to EUR 72 million


SARS-CoV-2 virus. Image credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIH
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. IMI's new projects will deliver much-needed diagnostics and treatments to tackle the pandemic. Image credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIH

In total, IMI received 144 proposals in response to the Call, of which 120 met the basic eligibility criteria for IMI support. All eligible proposals were evaluated by independent experts, and due to the large number of high quality proposals, IMI decided to increase the IMI funding allocated to this Call.

Of the eight projects, five focus on diagnostics and three on treatments. The diagnostics projects hope to develop devices that can be used anywhere (including a doctor’s surgery or patient’s home) and will deliver results fast (ranging from 14 to 40 minutes). While the treatment projects focus primarily on the current COVID-19 outbreak, they also include efforts to prepare for future coronavirus outbreaks. The projects form part of the European Commission’s wider response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Pierre Meulien, IMI Executive Director commented: ‘The success of IMI’s Call for proposals shows that as a public-private partnership, we are well placed to rapidly mobilise top people from diverse organisations to tackle emerging threats to public health. I am confident that these new projects will make valuable contributions to the wider global effort to tackle the current and future outbreaks.’

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: 'We need to bring together the expertise and resources of the public and the private sector in order to defeat this pandemic and prepare for any future outbreaks. With this funding from Horizon 2020 and our industry and other partners, we are speeding up the development of coronavirus diagnostics and treatments, essential tools that we need to tackle the global emergency.'

In total, the projects include 94 organisations, including universities, research organisations, companies, and public bodies. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are particularly well represented in the successful proposals, accounting for over 20 % of the participants and 17 % of the budget.

The following projects have been selected for funding, pending successful finalisation of the Grant Agreement with IMI. As these projects have not yet signed Grant Agreements, this information is subject to change. Final, more detailed information on the projects will be published after Grant Agreement signature.

Diagnostics projects

COVID-RED - COVID-19 infections - remote early detection

  • Lead institution: Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 9 partners from Denmark, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Switzerland, UK
  • Could digital technologies help to detect COVID-19 cases? The COVID-RED project thinks so – it will combine expertise in clinical epidemiology with digital devices (such as wearables and mobile apps) to rapidly and reliably detect cases so that they can be prioritised for testing.

DECISION - A minituarized disposable molecular diagnostics platform for combatting coronavirus infections

  • Lead institution: GNA Biosolutions GmbH, Germany
  • 4 partners from Germany, Italy, Spain
  • If you’ve been tested for COVID-19, you want to get your results fast. The DECISION project hopes you won’t have to wait more than 15 minutes. They’re working on a low-cost, miniaturised, disposable molecular diagnostic system that will make it possible to test patients with laboratory quality performance pretty much anywhere and give them their results in a matter of minutes.

DRAGON - Rapid and secure AI imaging based diagnosis, stratification, follow-up, and preparedness for coronavirus pandemics

  • Lead institution: Oncoradiomics, Belgium
  • 21 partners from Belgium, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, UK
  • The DRAGON project will apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver a decision support system for improved and more rapid diagnosis and prognosis. Citizens and patients will be involved in the development of the system.

KRONO - Evaluation of a production ready portable, point-of-need platform (instrument and reagents), direct from nasal swab test for the molecular diagnostic detection of COVID-19 infection.

  • Lead institution: BG Research Ltd, UK
  • 5 partners from France, Italy, UK
  • Currently, COVID-19 diagnostic tests need to be processed by an expert in a laboratory. The KRONO project aims to change that by delivering a simple test that can be used at a doctor’s office or a patient’s home (for example) and would deliver results in just 40 minutes. While the focus of the project is on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the team also plans to demonstrate a pipeline for rapidly deploying new tests in response to future outbreaks.

RAPID-COVID - Robust automation and point of care identification of COVID

  • Lead institution: GeneFirst Limited, UK
  • 5 partners from France, Slovenia, Spain, UK
  • While the world focuses on COVID-19, other infectious diseases with similar symptoms continue to circulate. The RAPID-COVID project aims to develop a diagnostic test that can simultaneously detect SARS-CoV-2 as well as 30 other common respiratory bacteria and viruses. This will ensure COVID-19 patients are quickly isolated and all patients receive the right treatment. It will also avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

Treatment projects

CARE - Corona accelerated R&D in Europe

  • Lead institution: Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), France
  • 36 partners from Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, UK, US
  • The goal of the CARE project is to deliver treatments for the current COVID outbreak as well as future coronavirus outbreaks. To do this, they will identify candidates among existing drugs that could be effective as treatments for the COVID-19 pandemic (drug repurposing), and develop new drugs specially designed to tackle the SARS-CoV-2 virus. After extensive testing in the laboratory, the project will advance the most promising drug candidates to clinical trials in humans.

Impentri - Development of Impentri, an intravenous imatinib formulation for COVID-19 acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

  • Lead institution: Exvastat (Ireland) Limited, Ireland
  • 5 partners from Canada, France, Ireland, the Netherlands
  • Many people with severe COVID-19 infection experience a build-up of fluid in the lungs, making it hard to breathe and, in the worst cases, contributing to the death of the patient. The body’s own immune response is partly responsible for this build-up of fluid. There are signs that the generic drug imatinib could address the problem, and now the Impentri project plans to run a randomised, double-blind clinical trial to properly test the efficacy and safety of the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 patients with lung inflammation.

MAD-CoV 2 - Modern approaches for developing antivirals against SARS-CoV 2

  • Lead institution: Statens Veterinaermedicinska Anstalt, Sweden
  • 9 partners from Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, UK
  • The aim of the MAD-CoV 2 project is to dive into the molecular details of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and use this knowledge to develop new COVID-19 treatments. Achieving this will entail engineering human tissue to test new treatments in the lab; studying how to exploit the role of the ACE2 receptor (which the virus latches onto to break into cells), and mapping factors that are critical for virus replication.


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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 2014-2020. 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.