Novel methods leading to new medications in depression and schizophrenia
Novel methods leading to new medications in depression and schizophrenia


Start Date
End Date
IMI1 - Call 1
Grant agreement number

Type of Action: 
RIA (Research and Innovation Action)

IMI Funding
8 986 216
EFPIA in kind
13 789 412
2 074 047
Total Cost
24 849 675


Despite remarkable advances in medical technologies and nearly 15.000 articles on schizophrenia and depression every year, there have been few truly innovative new medicines which have made it to the patients. There has been a tremendous explosion of new knowledge: dozens of genetic variations linked to the disease, hundreds of new molecules and mechanisms in the body identified, numerous scanning techniques distinguishing patients from healthy people, but it has been hard to translate these findings into novel therapies for patients. The NEWMEDS consortium developed important missing tools that will facilitate the translation of scientific findings into benefits for patients.

Read about the project's achievements in the public summary of the project's final report

Achievements & News

NEWMEDS highlights benefits of PPPs for schizophrenia & depression research
December 2016

The ability of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to drive progress in drug development is highlighted in a comment piece in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery written by members of IMI’s NEWMEDS project. NEWMEDS was launched in 2009 with the goal of developing new tools and techniques to speed up the development of new drugs for schizophrenia and depression. ###In the paper, the authors note that pre-competitive and competitive areas were clearly defined, providing a ‘fertile environment’ for scientists to openly discuss technical questions and work together. Some of the results of this open collaboration are summarised in the paper, including work on different brain circuits, knowledge on the genetics of schizophrenia, and the validation of new technologies. According to the authors, the public-private collaboration enabled ‘major synergies’ as they could cross-validate each other’s work, thereby helping the field to move forward ‘more rapidly, while not needlessly duplicating animal work’. The authors conclude: ‘Where research is clearly precompetitive, there are immense benefits for open discussion between competitive companies, and this should be the rule rather than the exception. Furthermore, psychiatric drug discovery must make translational effects on brain circuits a priority.’

NEWMEDS study reveals neural basis of multitasking
September 2015

An international team of scientists has revealed how brains handle multitasking. The study, which included researchers from IMI’s NEWMEDS project on schizophrenia and depression, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.### The findings will help us to better understand diseases where the ability to multitask is impaired, such as schizophrenia and dementia, and could ultimately aid in the development of new treatments. In the study, 344 healthy people switched between two tasks while undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain. The scientists assessed how the participants’ brain networks reconfigured themselves when switching between tasks. They found that the participants who were best at multitasking, flicking between the tasks with ease, showed greater rearrangement of the connections both within the frontal cortex (which is responsible for control over our thoughts and actions) and between the frontal cortex and other parts of the brain. ‘A signification motivation for our research is to understand disruptions to the dynamic of neural networks that are associated with psychiatric disorders,’ said Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg of the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany. ‘This study underlines the potential of modern neuroscientific methods for basic psychiatric research.’

NEWMEDS scientist receives neuropsychopharmacology award
September 2015

Dr Francesc Artigas is the recipient of the 2015 Neuropsychopharmacology Award by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) in recognition of his pioneering work in the field of systems neuropharmacology. The award is presented annually and recognises distinguished research in neuropsychopharmacology and closely related disciplines. ###Dr Artigas is a member of the IMI NEWMEDS project, aimed at finding new methods for the development of drugs for schizophrenia and depression. He picked up his prize at the recent ECNP congress in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

A leader in the study of the mechanism of action of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, Francesc Artigas is Chair of the Department of Neurochemistry and Neuropharmacology at the Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas de Barcelona of the Spanish Research Council (CSIC).

NEWMEDS video spotlights successes
May 2015

NEWMEDS, one of IMI’s early projects is drawing to a close and the project has published a video of its final meeting dedicated to the legacy it will leave behind.###

NEWMEDS was set up in 2009 to help find new methods for the development of drugs for schizophrenia and depression and was one of the first consortia launched under IMI. During its 5 years, NEWMEDS has shown that fierce competitors can and will work together in a pre-competitive space. 

The project brought together top scientists from academic institutions with a wide range of expertise, and partnered them with nearly all major biopharmaceutical companies. It focussed on developing new animal models using brain recording and behavioural tests to identify innovative and effective drugs for schizophrenia; it developed standardised paradigms, acquisition and analysis techniques to apply brain imaging, especially fMRI and PET imaging to drug development; it examined how new genetic findings influence the response to various drugs, and whether this information can be used to choose the right drug for the right patient; and finally, it has developed new approaches for shorter and more efficient trials of new medication – trials that may require fewer patients and give faster results.

NEWMEDS will leave a legacy of over 300 published papers, posters and talks as well as a number of web-based tools for use in drug discovery. The scientific relationships among the project participants will also build the next generation of collaborations and, hopefully, the next generation of compounds to help schizophrenia and depression patients.

NEWMEDS adds new features to DupCheck tool
February 2015

IMI’s NEWMEDS project on schizophrenia and depression has developed a number of new features for its DupCheck tool, which allows those running a clinical trial in any area of medicine to check if a patient is already enrolled in another trial elsewhere. ###DupCheck works globally. The issue of duplicate enrolment in trials is important for patients and trial organisers alike. For patients, interactions between experimental drugs could be harmful and even fatal. For those running the clinical trial, avoiding multiple trial enrolments also helps to ensure the validity of the trial results – a patient could be given the placebo in one trial and an active ingredient for the same condition in another. Alternatively, if a patient is taking active treatments in two trials, both trials will attribute any improvements (or adverse reactions) to their own trial drug. In DupCheck, all patient data is encrypted and access to the site is restricted to those working on clinical trials.

DupCheck’s features now include:

  • DupCheck provides real time information on attempted duplicate enrolment at time of screening.
  • Users can screen for previous participation in a trial of investigational drug.
  • DupCheck can be linked to existing electronic data capture systems—eliminating additional data entry—and run in the background.
  • DupCheck provides sponsors with one-click, real-time data on screening by site.

Trial sponsors can enrol at

NEWMEDS tool spots patients involved in more than one clinical trial
July 2014

IMI project NEWMEDS has launched an online tool that alerts those running a clinical trial if a patient is already enrolled in another trial elsewhere. Dubbed DupCheck, the tool is set to both improve patient safety during clinical trials and enhance the validity of trial results.### Clinical trials do not accept patients who are already involved in another trial. This is partly to protect the patient - interactions between experimental drugs can be harmful and even fatal. Avoiding multiple trial enrolments also helps to ensure the validity of the trial results – a patient could be given the placebo in one trial and an active ingredient for the same condition in another. Alternatively, if a patient is taking active treatments in two trials, both trials will attribute any improvements (or adverse reactions) to their own trial drug. The scale of the multiple enrolment problem is not well understood, although some studies suggest that around 5% of patients taking part in large trials may be enrolled in the same trial twice, but at different locations. There is no systematic data yet on enrolment across studies. DupCheck was created to tackle the issue. Those running trials can input or upload data collected into DupCheck, and the system alerts users of any potential duplicates. All patient data is encrypted and access to the site is restricted to those working on clinical trials. According to NEWMEDS scientist Jonathan Rabinowitz of Bar Ilan University in Israel, DupCheck is ‘the only solution to this problem that has been qualified by a regulatory agency’. The tool is currently in free beta and is being systematically incorporated by companies participating in NEWMEDS and other companies globally across therapeutic areas. Trial sponsors can enrol at ‘The benefits of DupCheck for the advancement of medical research are commensurate with the growing number of studies using it,’ says Professor Rabinowitz. ‘It is precompetitive collaboration taken to a new level. Every sponsor wants others to use it.’

Clinical trials could be shorter, NEWMEDS paper suggests
June 2014

Early clinical trials of schizophrenia drugs could be made shorter and more efficient if more women and more people with certain types of symptoms and/or younger patients were recruited, according to research from the NEWMEDS project published recently in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.### This would dramatically reduce patients’ exposure to the trial drug or placebo. Conventional trials of schizophrenia drugs typically last between six and eight weeks, and many have questioned their usefulness as nearly half of the patients drop out before the end of the trial. The NEWMEDS team pooled study data from 29 trials of antipsychotics run by 5 different pharmaceutical companies. This revealed that trials could be cut to as little as 4 weeks while the number of patients could be cut to 49 per trial arm if more women, more people with both positive and negative symptoms, and more young non-first episode patients were included, as these groups respond more strongly to the medicine compared to the placebo. (Positive symptoms are those which are not normally found in healthy people, such as hallucinations, while negative symptoms are those where patients lack behaviours found in healthy people like the ability to feel pleasure or act spontaneously.) A 6-week trial with 79 patients per arm would result in 474 weeks of patient exposure to the placebo and drug; cutting the trial to 4 weeks and 49 patients per arm would cut this figure to just 196 weeks of patient exposure.

NEWMEDS reveals impact of schizophrenia genes in healthy carriers
January 2014

Genetic variants associated with schizophrenia and autism still have an impact on cognitive skills and brain structure in people who carry the genes but do not suffer from these conditions, according to new research published in Nature by scientists from the NEWMEDS project.### The findings add to our understanding of the risk factors that contribute to these conditions and could make it easier to study the neural and biochemical foundations of cognitive abilities. The team studied 27 genetic variants known to be associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia and/or autism. The results revealed that the cognitive abilities of healthy carriers of risk-associated genetic variants lie between those of schizophrenia patients and people without the risk variants. In addition, the brain scans showed that healthy carriers of the risk variants had brain abnormalities linked to schizophrenia and cognitive processes. The findings suggest that the cognitive abnormalities seen in people with schizophrenia are not necessarily a consequence of the disease; rather, having these cognitive problems may be a risk factor for the disease.

NEWMEDS workshop on machine learning a success
October 2013

Machine learning for neuroimaging was the focus of a successful workshop run by the NEWMEDS project  in London. The goal of the workshop was to demonstrate the NEWMEDS machine learning toolbox which is designed for the analysis of clinical and pharmacological data.### Participants also had the opportunity to try out the tool on their own data. According to workshop organiser Mick Brammer of King’s College London, machine learning is only starting to be used in imaging.

What sets NEWMEDS apart from other groups working on machine learning for imaging is the wide range of methods used. ‘Our main distinguishing feature has been to work closely with our neuroscience and pharma colleagues to introduce methods that are best suited to the problems that interest us,’ he explained. ‘Most imagers are not doing this but using the most common “off the shelf” method regardless of the problem.’ Feedback from the workshop was extremely positive, and the participants left feeling excited about using the toolbox in the future.

   -   The presentations from the workshop can be downloaded from the NEWMEDS website.

NEWMEDS presents findings at major neuropsychopharmacology congress
October 2013

NEWMEDS researchers were out in force at the recent congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) in Barcelona.### Francesc Artigas of the Spanish National Research Council gave one of the event’s plenary lectures, where he presented NEWMEDS findings on the effects on brain activity of drugs used as models of schizophrenia, as well as mechanisms used by antipsychotic drugs to reverse these effects. Elsewhere, NEWMEDS researchers explained how they have identified the brain networks involved in schizophrenia, and uncovered new targets for antipsychotic drug development – both major goals for NEWMEDS. Finally, Jonathan Rabinowitz of Bar Ilan University in Israel led a brainstorming session on placebo controlled trials which featured a discussion on new approaches to reducing the placebo response in double blind trials.

IMI-funded scientist wins major neuropsychopharmacology award
November 2012

Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany and a participant in IMI’s NEWMEDS and EU-AIMS projects has been awarded the prestigious ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award 2012### for his groundbreaking work linking genetic variation associated with risk of mental illness to brain structure and function. The award, handed out at the annual congress of the ECNP (European College of Neuropsychopharmacology), recognises innovative and distinguished research achievements in neuropsychopharmacology and related fields. Dr Meyer-Lindenberg’s work focuses on the genetic and environmental risk factors associated with psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. ‘Especially our recent work on rare, high-risk genetic variants associated with schizophrenia and autism would not have been possible without the cooperative science funded in IMI,’ Dr Meyer-Lindenberg said.

NEWMEDS presents results at major psychiatric genetics congress
November 2012

IMI’s NEWMEDS project presented some of its findings at a symposium held during the 20th World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics (WCPG) in Hamburg, Germany in October.### The symposium, entitled Identification and functional consequence of genetic variants conferring risk of psychiatric disease – outcome of NEWMEDS collaboration, featured presentations of NEWMEDS work on how Copy Number Variations (CNVs, in which sections of DNA are present in more or fewer copies than usual) affect intellectual disability, autism, and schizophrenia. The presentations also discussed how NEWMEDS is attempting to model these conditions in mice. The hope is that these studies will shed light on the link between CNVs and the brain and deliver novel and more relevant animal models for research into psychiatric disorders.

NEWMEDS triggers rethink on ‘negative’ symptom treatments
June 2012

Negative’ symptoms of schizophrenia could respond better to existing treatments than was previously thought, according to new research from IMI’s NEWMEDS project.### Schizophrenia patients are said to have negative symptoms when they lack behaviours that are found in healthy people. For example, people with schizophrena may appear to lack emotion or the ability to feel pleasure or act spontaneously. (For comparison, symptoms such as hallucinations which are not normally experienced by healthy people are called ‘positive’ symptoms). NEWMEDS’ Jonathan Rabinowitz of Bar Ilan University in Israel and his colleagues studied data from large numbers of clinical trials studying various second generation antipsychotics in schizophrenia amassed by the NEWMEDS project. Their analyses revealed that the overall response to treatment was similar in patients with only prominent negative symptoms to patients who had either only prominent positive symptoms or both prominent negative and positive symptoms before treatment. Moreover, around two thirds of all patients who complete six weeks of treatment with second generation antipsychotic drugs have no residual negative symptoms of moderate or higher severity. Only a minority of patients were still suffering from prominent negative symptoms that would make such patients suitable to be studied in adjunctive treatment with new compounds particularly developed for the treatment of negative symptoms. ‘It has generally been maintained that negative symptoms do not respond to currently-used second generation antipsychotic medications,’ commented Professor Rabinowitz. ‘Our results suggest that they do respond.’ The findings suggest that it will be harder than expected for new medicines to prove themselves against existing medicines. ‘The findings were shared with drug developers and regulators who expressed interest in this work,’ said Professor Rabinowitz.

Clinical trials could be shorter, study suggests
October 2011

The length of clinical trials in which patients on active treatment are compared to patients taking a placebo could be shortened by one or two weeks, according to research from the IMI project NEWMEDS.### Speaking at the recent European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ENCP) congress, Professor Jonathan Rabinowitz of Israel’s Bar Ilan University explained how the team studied 29 trials of schizophrenia drugs sponsored by 5 pharmaceutical companies. The research revealed that in many trials lasting 6 weeks or longer, significant results can be observed in weeks 4 and 5, suggesting that such trials could be shortened. In addition, the researchers highlight the importance of including far more women in trials, as women appear to respond less to placebos than men, yet less than a third of the participants in the trials studied were female. The findings contribute to NEWMEDS’ goal of improving the design of clinical trials of schizophrenia treatments.

NEWMEDS advances schizophrenia research
April 2011

In a remarkable and unprecedented collaboration in schizophrenia research, the companies involved in the NEWMEDS project have pooled their data to create a large collaborative dataset that brings together the data of 23 401 anonymized patients from 67 trials on 11 compounds in over 25 countries.### This makes it by far the single largest database of clinical trial data ever amassed in psychiatric research. The academic community will greatly benefit from the partnership, as the exceptionally large and valuable database on schizophrenia will be made available to all participants in the project.
Read the full press release.

Participants Show participants on map

EFPIA companies
  • Abbvie Deutschland GMBH & Co Kg, Wiesbaden, Germany
  • Eli Lilly and Company Limited, Basingstoke, United Kingdom
  • F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Basel, Switzerland
  • H. Lundbeck As, Valby, Denmark
  • Institut De Recherches Servier, Suresnes, France
  • Janssen Pharmaceutica Nv, Beerse, Belgium
  • Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland
  • Orion Oyj, Espoo, Finland
  • Pfizer Limited, Sandwich, Kent , United Kingdom
Universities, research organisations, public bodies, non-profit groups
  • Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior Deinvestigaciones Cientificas, Madrid, Spain
  • Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
  • Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  • King'S College London, London, United Kingdom
  • The University Of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
  • University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Zentralinstitut Fuer Seelische Gesundheit, Mannheim, Germany
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • Gabo:Mi Gesellschaft Fur Ablauforganisation:Milliarium mbH & Co. KG, Munich, Germany
  • Islensk Erfdagreining ehf, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Psynova Neurotech Ltd, Cambridge, United Kingdom


Project coordinator
Tine Bryan Stensbøl
H. Lundbeck A/S
+45 3630 1311 Ext. 33638
Managing entity
Shitij Kapur
King’s College London