The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), the world’s largest public-private partnership in health, is launching its eighth call for proposals. With a total budget of $319 million ($188 million cash from IMI, plus a $131 million in-kind contribution from participating EFPIA companies), the projects resulting from this call will tackle some of the biggest challenges in health research.
“These new projects demonstrate that public-private partnerships are essential for taking on the biggest issues in medical research, such as the scourge of antibiotic resistance, and the definition of diseases based on their underlying biology,” said Michel Goldman, executive director, IMI.
The eighth call for proposals adds two more topics to IMI’s antimicrobial resistance program (NewDrugs4BadBugs, ND4BB), which forms part of the European Commission’s antimicrobial resistance action plan. The first new topic focuses on innovative trial design and clinical drug development, by supporting the development of another innovative drug targeting Staphylococcus aureus, the leading cause of antibiotic-resistant healthcare-associated infections worldwide. As such it complements one of the ND4BB topics launched in May.
The second antimicrobial resistance topic focuses on the development of new drugs to treat Gram-negative bacteria, such as Escherichia coli. The project offers an opportunity for universities and small companies to access the expertise and resources available under a newly-created drug discovery platform to advance their candidate drug molecules. Drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria are responsible for two thirds of the 25,000 deaths resulting from antimicrobial resistance reported in Europe annually. With cases on the rise, new antibiotics are urgently needed to treat these infections.
Two eighth call topics aim to pave the way for a major rethink in the way diseases are classified (disease taxonomy). Today, diseases are defined largely on the basis of symptoms and their location in the body. There is growing evidence that while two patients may have the same diagnosis, the genetic/molecular causes of their symptoms may be very different. This means that a treatment that works in one patient may prove ineffective in another. There is now broad recognition that the way diseases are classified needs to change, and the immense scale of the challenge means that only a large public-private partnership could take this on.
The two topics will embark on a new approach to disease classification, focusing initially on two disease areas where the problems of patient classification are well known: immunoinflammatory disorders (e.g. systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis) and neurodegenerative diseases (particularly Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease). The projects will deliver data, tools and recommendations that can be used by the biomedical community to develop new treatments and diagnostic tests.
Another topic will create a European induced pluripotent stem cell bank.Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have immense potential for drug R&D. Researchers are generating large numbers of iPS cell lines, but their quality varies greatly and they do not always come with sufficient data on the donor for researchers to use them well. Furthermore, access to cell lines is often highly restricted. This topic would see the creation of a European iPS cell bank that would provide researchers with access to quality-assured, well characterized iPS cell lines on a not-for-profit basis.
The deadline for submitting applications to be part of these ambitious new projects is March 19, 2013.