IMI Newsletter: Call applicant tips, IMI events, project success stories

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62nd Edition – November 2016

  Interested in our new Call 10 topics? Read our tips for applicants   PROactive draws to a close, delivers on its promises – an interview with project coordinators   ADAPTED project to boost development of new medicines for Alzheimer’s   European Lead Factory featured on Euronews   IMI at the Pharmaceutical Science World Congress (PSWC) 2017   Alzheimer's disease: advancing research through collaboration   ‘Play Decide’ game workshop brought to the European Parliament by eTRIKS   Congratulations to the recently appointed members of IMI’s Scientific Committee   News from the projects

Interested in our new Call 10 topics? Read our tips for applicants

The Call 10 launch date will be announced shortly and the indicative topics are available on the Future Topics webpage. In the meantime, please read our tips for applicants, which can help increase your chances of submitting a successful proposal. The following tips are based on feedback from applicants and IMI staff observations when going through proposals.

Start working early – putting together a consortium and preparing a short proposal takes a lot of time. Find partners – individual researchers are not eligible to receive funding through IMI Calls for proposals – you will need to join or form a consortium. Read and understand the Call documents – this may take some time, but this should be considered as an investment. Ask questions – if something in the Call documents is unclear, or if you have any questions about the Call topics or the rules and procedures, contact the IMI Programme Office  – it’s our job to help you. Get informed – webinars are an excellent way to ensure you understand the Call topics as well as IMI’s rules and procedures. Webinars are announced on the IMI website and social media channels as soon as they are scheduled. Make sure you address the requirements of the topic as set out in the topic text and that your consortium includes all the expertise needed to carry out the tasks expected of it. The evaluators aren’t psychic – ensure your proposal is well written and includes all the information the reviewers will need to assess it. Don’t forget to address any ethical issues – this speaks for itself! Don’t forget the basics – eligibility criteria, application format, deadline

Good luck!

PROactive draws to a close, delivers on its promises – an interview with project coordinators

PROactive was launched in 2009 with the aim of developing an innovative tool to measure physical activity in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. The project has now drawn to a close, meeting its main goal. In interview with the IMI Programme Office, PROactive’s scientific coordinator, Thierry Troosters of the University of Leuven, and project coordinator, Mario Scuri of CHIESI Pharmaceuticals, explain how the new tool works and how it will benefit patients.  ‘A decade ago, physical activity monitors became available and people began using them, but little was known on how to interpret the outcomes’, said Troosters. ‘Now we have a tool which allows us to not only look at the amount of physical activity in COPD patients, but also to capture patients’ experience of this physical activity. I am quite pleased to see this project come to an end with the deliverable we had anticipated.’ Read the full interview. 

ADAPTED project to boost development of new medicines for Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects over 35 million people worldwide and yet there are currently no medicines which slow down the progress of the disease. The new IMI project ADAPTED will boost the development of new medicines by investigating an area of AD research which has previously received little attention. The project will focus on the APOE gene, which is well-known risk factor for developing the disease, but precisely how this gene contributes to the risk of developing AD is not known. ‘People who carry a particular version of the APOE gene, known as APOE4, have a considerably higher risk of developing AD’, said Margaretha Bakker of Abbvie, one of the project coordinators. ‘They also tend to develop the disease much earlier in life which severely impacts on their quality of life. It is not well understood why this is and therefore APOE has largely been ignored in the quest to find treatments for AD. By bringing together leading experts in a range of state-of-the-art technologies to tackle this question, we will gain better insights into the causes of AD which will lead to better treatments for patients.’ 

European Lead Factory featured on Euronews

Taros Chemicals, one of the partners in IMI’s European Lead Factory project, was recently featured on Business Planet, the Euronews programme dedicated to SME success stories. The episode aimed to show how SMEs can benefit from being involved in IMI projects. Missed it? You can still watch it online

IMI at the Pharmaceutical Science World Congress (PSWC) 2017

IMI is organising a symposium on ‘Putting open innovation into practice – case studies from Europe’ at the 6th Pharmaceutical Science World Congress (PSWC). The event will take place in Stockholm, Sweden from 21 to 24 May 2017.

IMI is facilitating open innovation among the key players involved in healthcare research, including universities, pharmaceutical companies, SMEs, patient organisations and medicines regulators. With this in mind, IMI has teamed up with the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) in the organisation of the congress.

IMI’s symposium on open innovation is scheduled on 23 May, and features case studies from the following IMI projects: eTOX, Open PHACTS, European Lead Factory, ENABLE and ULTRA-DD.

The 6th Pharmaceutical Science World Congress (PSWC) aims to provide a forum for an international network of pharmaceutical scientists to make an impact on the future of pharmaceutical sciences and global healthcare. The congress theme will be: ‘Future Medicines for One World’.
For more information and to register for the event, please visit the website of the Pharmaceutical Science World Congress

Alzheimer's disease: advancing research through collaboration

On 8 November, IMI organised a roundtable discussion in the European Parliament on the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease for patients, sharing the progress and results delivered by the IMI Alzheimer's Disease Platform and its global collaboration and synergies with other EU projects in the field.
The roundtable, hosted by Ernest Maragall, Member of the European Parliament, brought together patient advocates, academia, pharmaceutical companies, IMI projects and other EU-funded consortia, as well as research organisations.
In particular, the spotlight was on the collaboration between the IMI projects EPAD, EMIF and AETIONOMY under the IMI Alzheimer's Disease Platform and its collaboration with other high-level initiatives in the field of dementia.
The figures highlighting the burden of Alzheimer’s disease are staggering. About one in twenty people over the age of 65 develops Alzheimer's disease. The disease kills more than breast and prostate cancers combined, and there is an urgent need for new treatments. The number of people affected worldwide is expected to reach over 100 million by 2050. Yet despite intensive efforts over many years, there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s and little in the way of treatments.
Prioritising public investment in medical research to allow game-changing advances in treating this disease requires strong support and commitment from politicians, institutions and citizens sharing the value of research.
The event presentations are available for download from the event webpage

‘Play Decide’ game workshop brought to the European Parliament by eTRIKS

With the goal of bringing patients and policy makers together on the value of data, the IMI eTRIKS project organised a ‘Play Decide’ event – an innovative multi-stakeholder discussion game workshop. The event took place in the European Parliament in Brussels on 20 October 2016, bringing patients and policy makers together around the value of data.
The workshop was hosted by Soledad Cabezón Ruiz, Member of the European Parliament and focused on integrating stakeholder perspectives on the value of medical research data re-use.
eTRIKS aims to inform medical researchers about the value of data and provide practical advice on making data more valuable through ethical sharing.
Play Decide is a discussion game that outlines the framework of the discussion, provides a series of positions (which the group can ultimately agree, or disagree with) and focuses on the key issues pertinent to the group. It encourages a variety of stakeholders to try and understand alternative views and aims to align those views. This workshop format was chosen to bring together experts in medical research and patients to discuss the issues affecting the value of data. The output of the discussions will be used to improve understanding of data and its reuse and to develop educational material that will be disseminated via e.g. clinical trial consent forms.

Congratulations to the recently appointed members of IMI’s Scientific Committee

On 7 November 2016, IMI formalised the two-year appointment of its Scientific Committee members.
The IMI Scientific Committee includes internationally acclaimed experts from highly specialised medical fields, including bioinformatics, cancer, microbiology, molecular biology, neurology, pharmacology, proteomics and public health.
The 11 members of the IMI Scientific Committee, including one ad-hoc member are: Isabelle Bekeredjian-Ding, Andreas Bernkop-Schnurch, Maria Blasco, Dolores Cahill, Anna Chioti, Maria Beatriz Da Silva Lima, Hans-Georg Eichler, Markus Perola, Torsten Schwede, Tanel Tenson and Annamaria Vezzani.
The Scientific Committee provides strategic science-based recommendations to IMI and advises on the continued relevance of the Strategic Research Agenda and the scientific priorities, which are the basis for the Call topics. The Committee is appointed upon suggestions made by the States Representatives Group.
For more information about the IMI Scientific Committee, please visit the governance page of the IMI website.

News from the projects

IMI gives boost to a promising, new antibiotic programme

Two IMI flagship projects, the European Lead Factory and ENABLE, have together propelled a promising, new antibiotic programme, which could result in new antibiotics for patients. A researcher from the University of Oxford, Chris Schofield, kick-started the process through his group’s focus on a potential target within gram-negative bacteria that could eliminate resistance against antibiotics. He applied to the European Lead Factory project, where the target was screened against their library of about 300,000 compounds. Small molecule hits with very promising activity against the target were identified. The Oxford and ELF teams worked further to improve the hits, resulting in highly potent compounds that create a strong base for further development. Schofield then turned to the ENABLE project, which has the mission to develop attractive antibacterial candidates for testing in the clinic. The application was deemed to have high novelty and potential for development and was accepted by the project. Schofield’s group is now collaborating with ENABLE partners in the pharmaceutical industry, SMEs and universities from across Europe to develop these early stage compounds towards clinical trials. ‘Through collaborative efforts across Europe, we have been able to take a potential antibiotic target and identify compounds active against it, improve them and start development towards the holy grail of new antibiotics for patients’, said Schofield. ‘This is transforming an almost impossible task for an individual academic group into a solid scientific and commercially viable pathway.’ And there is more in the pipeline: ELF is currently working on another 5 antibiotic programmes and ENABLE accommodates 8 active programmes.

 Read the press release

K4DD study sheds light on drug target for Parkinson’s and cancer
Drugs work by binding with molecules in the body to either block or alter the action of the target molecule. IMI’s K4DD project works to understand this complex and dynamic relationship, and recently the project reported a big step forward – a step which could lead to the development of safer and more effective drugs for a broad range of diseases. Two of the K4DD project partners, Leiden University in the Netherlands and a British SME Heptares Therapeutics, worked together to improve the understanding of the so-called adenosine A2A receptor, a therapeutic target for several diseases including Parkinson’s and cancer. Currently many efforts are directed towards discovering new therapeutic molecules which could bind with this receptor, but the desired properties of such molecules are not well understood. By developing a series of molecules, which were similar in structure but had different dynamics of binding with the adenosine A2A receptor, the K4DD partners gained new, significant insights into how this receptor interacts with different molecules. This in turn enabled them to understand factors which cause some potential drug molecules to disconnect from the receptor, knowledge which can probably be applied to similar mechanisms which exist in a broad range of other receptors similar to A2A. This will lead to the development of safer and more effective drugs to target receptors in general. According to the project partners, the collaborative nature of the IMI project was the key to achieving this success. ‘The K4DD project partners have created an open environment in which the sharing of knowledge, results and resources is continuously stimulated’, said Tale Sliedrecht of Lygature, one of the project partners. ‘In this particular study two partners with different specialties combined forces and generated new findings which would not have been possible without the collaboration.’

COMPACT paves way for development of better biopharmaceuticals
Many new medicines are based on biological molecules such as proteins or oligonucleotides. Although promising, most of these new drugs (known as biopharmaceuticals) cannot cross biological membranes and are therefore limited in reaching targets within the cell. This has so far limited the number of effective biopharmaceuticals available. A new toolbox of methods and formulations, developed by IMI’s COMPACT project, will soon give scientists a step-by-step strategy to quickly and reliably assess both the quantity and the quality of the drug delivered to the cell’s interior, opening the way for the development of more effective drugs in the future. ‘The uptake of drugs into cells is one of the most critical steps in the delivery of biopharmaceuticals over biological barriers and robust methods that can monitor individual steps of this process were sorely needed’, said COMPACT scientific coordinator, Enrico Mastrobattista of Utrecht University. ‘COMPACT has invested time and resources to make robust new methods available for all consortium members and in due time, when all the work has been published, to the entire scientific community.’ The development of the toolbox was a joint effort between the industrial and academic project partners and parts of it were already published in the Journal of Controlled Release. ‘This achievement illustrates how public-private partnerships can synergise efforts’, said Mastrobattista. ‘IMI has helped in bringing together and aligning experts from industry and academia and boosted the collaboration by giving a financial impulse. The combination of academic curiosity and industrial project management skills has led to a fruitful and productive collaboration on a scale that would not be achievable outside of an IMI Project.’ This achievement contributes to the overall goal of the COMPACT project, which is to shed new light on the obstacles biopharmaceuticals need to overcome to get to where they are needed in the body.

IMI project partner wins public-private collaboration award

The Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), one of the project partners in IMI’s ULTRA-DD project, won the 2016 Oxford Academic Health Science Network Public-Private Collaboration Award, for its pioneering work to accelerate drug discovery. The award celebrates innovative public-private collaboration among universities, industry and the National Health Service (NHS) that ultimately benefits patients. The SGC was the unanimous winner chosen by an independent panel of judges. The judges noted that the SGC’s initiatives were of ‘significant scope and scale’ and ‘could make a significant difference.’ Upon receiving the award, Chas Bountra, the Chief Scientist of SGC Oxford, said: ‘The SGC in Oxford is working with pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, patient organisations, clinicians and academic researchers to identify new therapeutic targets. We have assembled this extensive network of expertise to generate high quality, freely available, novel reagents to accelerate drug discovery for patients. We are delighted to receive such a prestigious award.’ 

European Lead Factory drug-like hit leads to creation of a spin-out

After helping 73 drug discovery programmes, academics and SMEs, to identify potential new drug candidates, the European Lead Factory (ELF) recently reported another milestone. One of the academic researchers who benefited from ELF screening activities by identifying a drug candidate series for type 2 diabetes, went on to create a spin-out company based on these findings. The researcher, Dr Margit Mahlapuu from the University of Gothenburg, first identified a new target which could be used to reverse metabolic complications in type 2 diabetes. With the help of the ELF, she then screened the ELF library of the then 320 000 industry compounds and identified a set of selective and potent small molecules which interfere with this target. She went on to create a spin-out company, ScandiCure, whose aim is to further develop these molecules into a first-in-class anti-diabetic drug. The company already secured an investment from GU Ventures AB, an investment company and an incubator owned by the Swedish state. This is the first spin-out created as a result of ELF, but project representatives hope it won’t be the last. ‘As the European Lead Factory offers access to high-quality compounds to any researcher in the EU, similar spin-outs in various disease domains are expected in the future’, said Ton Rijnders of Lygature, one of the ELF project partners. ‘The value of such spin-outs is not only in the expected commercialization of products developed, but also in the societal impact. ELF contributes to the faster development of new innovative medicines, which will eventually benefit the patient.’

SafeSciMET regulatory course – sign up now!
Registration is now open for the Regulatory Requirements and Guidelines course run by IMI education project SafeSciMET. Drug development and production underlies laws and regulations to secure protection of human, test animals and the environment. This course will provide participants with a comprehensive overview of the required in vitro and in vivo nonclinical studies, strategies for the development and risk assessment of new pharmaceuticals. While the focus of this course is mainly on the EU perspective, procedures and guidelines reflecting the international harmonisation of requirements (in the EU, US and Japanese) will also be covered. SafeSciMET offers an intense and broad training with leading experts in their field and ample opportunities for lecturer-student interactions.  This course and the other single courses of the SafeSciMET programme provide new opportunities for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and are part of European Master for Advanced Safety Sciences for Medicines degree at the University of Konstanz. The course will take place 23 to 27 January in Lisbon and the registration is open until 20 December.

Course brochure 

 

The Innovative Medicines Initiative is the largest public-private partnership aiming to boost pharmaceutical innovation in Europe and to speed up the development of better and safer medicines for patients. IMI is a joint undertaking between the European Union and the pharmaceutical industry association EFPIA.
www.imi.europa.eu

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