Europe's Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) has launched seven new projects, costing a combined 215 million euros, which will take on some of the biggest challenges in healthcare research.

This third wave of projects, which will run for five years, includes initiatives aimed at speeding up the search for more effective treatments for certain diseases and conditions that are currently difficult to manage.

These include:

- PreDICT-TB - model-based preclinical development of anti-tuberculosis drug combinations - which is investigating ways of designing new combinations of drugs to make TB treatments more user-friendly. The total cost of this project is 28.6 million euros, the project coordinator is GlaxoSmithKline and the managing entity is the University of Liverpool;

- DIRECT - diabetes research on patient stratification - aims to pave the way for type 2 diabetes patients to benefit from personalised medicines. Total cost is 43.1 million euros, the project coordinator is Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH and the managing entity is the University of Dundee; and

- EU-AIMS - European Autism Interventions: a Multicentre Study for Developing New Medications - is working towards the development of new treatments designed specifically to treat autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Total cost is 35.9 million euros, Hoffmann-la Roche is the project coordinator and King's College London is the managing entity.

Other projects are focused more on safety issues. They are:

- MIP-DILI - Mechanism-Based Integrated Systems for the Prediction of Drug-Induced Liver Injury -  which aims to make it easier for researchers to identify potential drugs that are likely to cause liver damage, an important issue given that drug-induced injury is a leading cause of liver failure. The total cost is 32.4 million, the project coordinator is AstraZeneca and the managing entity is the University of Liverpool;

- ABIRISK - Anti-Biopharmaceutical Immunisation: Prediction and Analysis of Clinical Relevance to Minimise the Risk -  which is working to study the underlying causes of the immune response which can occasionally be triggered by the use of biopharmaceuticals. Total cost is 34.9 million euros, the project coordinator is GlaxoSmithKline and the managing body is INSERM; and

- BIOVACSAFE - Biomarkers for Enhanced Vaccine Immunosafety - which is working to develop tools to accelerate procedures to test and monitor vaccine safety. Total cost is 30.2 million euros, the University of Surrey is the project coordinator and managing entity, and Novartis is the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) coordinator.

The seventh project concerns the creation of a European Patients' Academy on Therapeutic Innovation (EUPATI), which will educate patients and the public about medicines development and empower patients to engage more effectively in the drug development process. The total cost of this project is 10.1 million euros, the project coordinator and managing entity is the European Patients' Forum (EPF) and the EFPIA coordinator is Verband forschender Artzneimittelhersteller eV.

"These projects are all taking on research challenges that would be too big for one company or academic team to tackle on its own. They therefore demonstrate IMI's value in creating pan-European teams of exports that are in a position to make major advances in these critical areas," comments IMI executive director Michel Goldman.

IMI is currently funding 30 projects and says that, by the end of the year, it expects to announce a fourth round of projects in areas related to obesity, Alzheimer's disease, drug delivery by non-carriers, sustainable chemical drug production, the behaviour of drugs in the human body, knowledge management and stem cells for drug discovery.

A fifth wave of projects will relate to the building of a Joint European Compound Collection and a European Screening Centre.

In addition, IMI has recently launched a major programme for combatting antibiotic resistance, and has more calls for proposals in the pipeline, including those relating to the assessment of vaccination impact and to effectiveness research.

- IMI is the world's largest public-private partnership in health R&D. The European Union (EU) contributes 1 billion euros to its research programme, matched by in-kind contributions worth at least another 1 billion euros from EFPIA member companies.