Europe’s second Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI 2) has been announced today, with a 3.3 billion-euro budget and a goal of fast-tracking development of the next generation of medicines, especially in areas of unmet medical or societal need.

The IMI 2 Strategic Research Agenda, which draws heavily on the World Health Organisation Priority Medicines for Europe and the World report, will also place a greater emphasis on speeding up patient access to new medicines.

Today also marks the launch of the first IMI 2 call for proposals, featuring topics on type 1 diabetes and retinal diseases, both areas where there is an urgent need for new treatments.

Type 1 diabetes affects 17 million people globally and there is no cure. The project will aim to advance understanding of the condition and address the lack of tools and technologies to detect people’s risk of developing it. The project has a total budget of just over 35 million euros, of which 17.6 million euros comes from Horizon 2020 and 12.6 million euros from the large pharmaceutical companies participating in the project. The JDRF diabetes charity and patient organisation will coordinate the project and contribution 2.8 million euros to it, and the Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust will contribute a further 2.2 million euros.

The second topic of the first call is retinal diseases, a leading cause of blindness worldwide. There are currently no effective medicines for dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or diabetic retinopathy, nor adequate outcome measures relevant to patients’ daily lives. 

The goal of this 14 million-euro project – to which the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) are each contributing 7 million euros – is to develop new methods and tools that accurately reflect the impact of these diseases on patients’ everyday lives, and these breakthroughs could be used in clinical studies to assess the effectiveness of potential treatments.

The project will therefore address an unmet medical need that is also recognised by European medicines regulators, the partners note.

IMI is a public/private partnership between the Commission and EFPIA. The IMI 2 programme will build on the successes of IMI’s first phase (2008-2013), which has delivered breakthroughs in areas as diverse as diabetes, autism and medicines safety, and will expand the partnership to all players in the health ecosystem, they say.