Press release: IMI launches €130m Calls for proposals with focus on Alzheimer’s, big data, vaccines, & more

The total budget for the two Calls stands at just over EUR 130 million. Around half of this comes from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. The other half comes from EFPIA companies as well as IMI Associated Partners.

Alzheimer’s disease and technologies – People in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease experience declining cognitive and functional abilities, making it harder for them to remember things and places, carry out simple calculations, use a phone/computer, drive, and adhere to medications. This topic aims to develop a digital platform that draws on smartphone, wearable and/or home sensor technologies to detect changes in cognitive and functional abilities. Ultimately, information from this platform will make it easier to assess how well new dementia treatments work.

Making data FAIRer – FAIR data is ‘findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable’. The goal of this topic is to ensure that data from IMI projects is in line with FAIR principles, as this will help to secure the sustainability of the data and make it easier for the scientific community to take advantage of the vast amounts of data generated by IMI projects.

Towards more reliable clinical trials for primary Sjögren’s Syndrome (pSS) – pSS is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks cells in the body that secrete fluids, such as tear ducts and salivary glands. Symptoms include itchy eyes, a dry mouth, joint and muscle pain, difficulty concentrating, and disabling fatigue. There is no cure for pSS, although there are treatments to alleviate some symptoms. The aim of this topic is to identify outcome measures (which could be from blood tests, imaging, or patients’ own reports of their symptoms, for example), that could be used in clinical trials to determine whether a new pSS medicine works or not.

European Health Data Network – Healthcare data has the potential to transform our understanding of health, disease and outcomes, yet it is currently scattered across multiple institutions and countries, stored in different formats, and subject to different rules. The European Health Data Network topic aims to harmonise a large number of datasets to a common format and standard and link them to create a federated data network. This network would make it easier for researchers to find and reuse data while respecting the relevant local data privacy rules. The approach has already proven successful in other IMI projects, most notably EMIF (European Medical Information Framework).

Vaccines and older people – Because they tend to have weaker immune systems, older people are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases. As the population ages, this will place a growing burden on healthcare systems. One way to address this would be to design a vaccination programme for the elderly, similar to that which already exists for children. This topic will pave the way for such a programme by studying the burden of infectious disease in the over-50s; investigating the immune response in the over-65s; using models to simulate ways of lowering the disease burden; and devising educational materials for healthcare providers on the best vaccination strategies for older people.

Getting drugs across the blood-brain barrier – As the name suggests, the blood-brain barrier (BBB) tightly controls what is allowed access to our brains, allowing nutrients and essential substances through, but blocking pathogens, for example. Getting medicines through this protective shield is a major challenge for drug developers, particularly those developing biopharmaceuticals, which are based on large molecules like proteins and antibodies. The goal of this topic is to develop models of the BBB so that researchers can study it more easily; to investigate the biology of the BBB in both health and disease, and the transport routes across it; and to develop innovative systems capable of delivering medicines to the brain. The project will focus on two major disease areas: neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer and Parkinson’s diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and motor neurone disease), vascular dementia, and multiple sclerosis; and metabolism-related diseases (mainly diabetes and obesity).

European screening centre – The objective of this topic is to deliver a European Screening Centre comprising over half a million compounds from public and private partners, and ultra-high throughput screening technologies that will allow public and private partners alike to screen drug targets for high quality compounds that could advance their research and potentially bring innovative therapies to patients. In the long term, the centre should become self-sustaining so that it can continue to provide these valuable services after the project has finished.

Exploitation of IMI project results – Most of the very first IMI projects have either finished or are coming to an end now. A number of these have generated significant results that would benefit from some support to facilitate their transition to long term sustainability and availability to the scientific community. The goal of this topic, which forms IMI’s 11th Call for proposals and is the first of its kind, is to provide intermediate solutions to ensure the subsequent exploitation and sustainability of key results from the following IMI projects: EMTRAIN and PharmaTrain (both education and training), EUPATI (patient education), Open PHACTS (data management), RAPP-ID (infectious disease diagnostics), WEB-RADR (reporting of medicines side effects), and GetReal (incorporation of real world data into drug development).

Pierre Meulien, IMI Executive Director commented: ‘As these new Call topics show, there are still many challenges and unanswered questions in medical research and drug development. I am optimistic that by bringing together the best people from the public and private sectors, the Innovative Medicines Initiative will help to make progress in these important areas and contribute to accelerating medicines development.’

Source: IMI press release 19 July 2017