The funding will go towards eight research projects that have been selected out of 144 proposals received by the EU’s Innovative Medicines Initiative.
In March, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) opened a fast-track call for proposals on diagnostics and treatments for the coronavirus outbreak. Due to the large number of high-quality proposals received, the IMI has increased the funding from an initial sum of €45M up to €72M. Industry partners are expected to contribute another €45M to the selected projects on a case-by-case basis, bringing the total funding up to €117M.
Five of the eight projects selected by the IMI focus on developing diagnostics. They include a low-cost test that can be carried out anywhere and gives results within 15 minutes; using digital technologies to prioritize who should be tested; applying artificial intelligence to improve and speed up diagnosis; and a test that can simultaneously detect 30 common respiratory infections in addition to the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
“We are prioritizing diagnostics because there is clearly an urgent need for tests that can be carried out at the point of care, and deliver results rapidly,” said Pierre Meulien, IMI Executive Director. “Covid-19 shares many symptoms with the common cold and flu and other respiratory diseases, so we need to be able to rapidly determine which patients have Covid-19 — and so should be isolated and treated appropriately — and which patients have other diseases.”
The other three projects selected focus on developing treatments for Covid-19. “The growing numbers of people who need hospitalization show that we urgently need a safe, effective treatment for Covid-19,” Meulien told me. “While there are already trials ongoing to see if some existing drugs could also be used to treat the disease, we need to expand this effort and develop drugs designed specifically for Covid-19.”
The recipients are a mix of research institutes and small and medium enterprises from across Europe. The role of the pharma industry will be to contribute their own resources. “This is mainly in the form of their researchers’ time, access to resources, etc. The industry partners bring all of their expertise and understanding of how to accelerate product development so that the time to implementation can be optimized,” said Meulien.
The IMI is a public-private partnership between the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and gets half of its funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. In the past few months, multiple initiatives have been launched in Europe to address the current outbreak.
Just last week, the EU launched the Coronavirus Global Response, a fundraising effort aiming to gather €7.5B to fund research on coronavirus diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments.
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