Early-Bird's Eye View of New Research Funding

December 2, 2013

Applied Clinical Trials

A new call for proposals is going to appear in December from the Innovative Medicines Initiative, the European Union partnership with the pharmaceutical industry.

For those who like to get up early – or get their research-funding applications in early – here is a heads-up... A new call for proposals is going to appear in December from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), the European Union partnership with the pharmaceutical industry.

The call comprises eight topics. From osteoarthritis to Alzheimer’s, from biomarkers for tumors to preparing for zoonosis, from bringing genomic discoveries into drug therapy to ecorisk prediction, and from combating gram-negative infections to treating cystic fibrosis, the field for tenders will be open within days.

More specifically, grants will be available for applied public-private research that can create clinical headway in osteoarthritis. Money will be available for a European platform for proof of concept for prevention in Alzheimer’s disease. Funding will be provided for assessing the value of the latest circulating blood-based biomarker assays for personalized tumor therapy. Initiatives to predict and prepare for diseases transmitted to humans from animals will be eligible for support. And among other worthy fields for exploration, creating new research tools to translate genomic discoveries into drug discovery projects can be backed by EU money.

The announcement comes at an interesting time for IMI. Just as it is on the threshold of new funding – of nearly $3 billion – in the European Union's research program, which is due to be signed off on by EU ministers on December 3, the entire IMI program is under fresh assault from members of the European Parliament.

There are moves to secure greater control over the next phase of IMI, on which strategic decisions are just about to be made with the finalization of the legislation and funding. The European Parliament's industry and research committee has been examining the legislation setting up IMI2, the envisaged successor programme to the current IMI, which is due to start next year and run to 2020, with an expanded budget of more than 3 billion euros.

Spanish socialist MEP Teresa Riera Madurelln is trying to persuade the parliament to monitor IMI research more closely. She wants the new program to fund only those trials "which have an innovative turn to them,” and that "meet therapeutic and public health needs.” She is also seeking controls over the nature of the research to be conducted. "There is also the need to assure that the research topics respond to a genuine public interest and are not perceived as a tool to enable market distortions," she warns. And she wants to cut the EU contribution to the program by 12.5%, from 1.7 billion euros to 1.5 billion euros.