Big Data, Better Outcomes

January 4, 2016
Peter O'Donnell
Peter O'Donnell

Peter O'Donnell is a freelance journalist who specializes in European health affairs and is based in Brussels, Belgium.

The European drug research consortium, IMI2, is running a program entitled Big Data for Better Outcomes Programme to promote "the evolution towards value-based and more outcomes-focused" healthcare, by generating methodologies and data that can inform policy debates.

Fast-moving clinical trialists with an urge to explore big data could be in line for a share of close to $100 million in new European grant funding. They have until March to put together applications, and if they are really fast-moving they can also register for an on-line explanatory session in early January that will set out the offer and answer questions. But as a preview, here's the outline. 

The European drug research consortium, IMI2, is running a program entitled Big Data for Better Outcomes Program (cutely acronymed as BD4BO) to promote what it calls "the evolution towards value-based and more outcomes-focused" healthcare, by generating methodologies and data that can inform policy debates. (IMI2, for those with only a tenuous interest in European affairs, is the second iteration of the Innovative Medicines Initiative, which is going to spend more than $5 billion on streamlining the development of new treatments over the next few years. Half the money comes from the European Union and the other half from the European drug industry–mainly Big Pharma.)

is going to involve industry, patients, payers, physicians, regulators, academic researchers, and healthcare decision makers, to define metrics of outcomes, and processes that can access high quality data. Some of the money will be used to coordinate a data network, and some for encouraging work on specific diseases, populations, or technologies.

Formal submissions will be accepted in the coming weeks for projects that can help define the strategy, highlight valuable research fields, or provide effective data access and cross-platform interoperability. The deadline is March 17. For the coordination aspects, a webinar will be held on Monday, January 11 at 3 pm CET or 9 am EST (click here to register). The focus of the program also includes increasing access to and use of high quality data to improve clinical outcomes in heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and acute coronary syndrome patients. And there is funding for developing a comprehensive pediatric preclinical platform to support clinical molecule development.

On its own admission, the program's long-term objective is more ambitious than just linking up repositories or creating new codes of practice. The underlying ambition in all its talk of more value-based and outcomes-focused approaches is a real transformation of healthcare systems touching also on the thorny issue of payments, incentives, and the artificial divide between primary and secondary care--which closely reflects the drug industry's agenda of breaking down the silos in healthcare funding so that better medicines can be paid for out of the efficiencies they bring to the entire health budget.

This isn't IMI2's only current offer of support. It is also inviting applications from projects developing novel clinical endpoints for trials in dry age-related macular degeneration, or identifying potential drug targets modulating misfolded proteins in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Another topic is elucidating the causes of neuropathic pain. And a separate $100 million call focuses on increasing capacity to react to future outbreaks of Ebola and other filoviral haemorrhagic fevers with vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatments.

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