Happy 10th Birthday IMI: a tribute to collaboration

Today’s guest blog comes from Dr. Birgit Steckel-Hamann, Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) Manager at Lilly.

Medical research is becoming more and more complex; it requires bringing the best researchers together to overcome the biggest bottlenecks we are coming up against. We face unmet medical needs, greater chronic conditions, and the need to develop new medicines. The time between discovery and delivery to patients is often long and, in parallel, we have ageing societies and healthcare systems that are being squeezed while they are expected to do more with less.

The fact is that challenges in health are far too big for any one stakeholder group to solve alone. There are too many knowledge gaps to fill. Multiple stakeholders - industry, universities, hospitals, research centres, SMEs, patient organisations, and public authorities - each have an essential role to play as do more and more ‘non-traditional’ players like medical devices, IT, diagnostics and imaging experts. We cannot work in silos, because fragmented skills, technologies and data cannot deliver alone. 

These are the principles that underpin IMI – the single biggest public-private partnership in health in the world, which runs hundreds of projects across every conceivable area of health (in line with the WHO’s report on Priority Medicines for Europe and the World). Managed by the European Commission and our European industry association, EFPIA, now ten years old – is still going strong.

Managing Lilly’s IMI projects portfolio from the start has been one of my proudest and most rewarding professional challenges. We have been involved in 57 IMI projects from back in 2008, with 31 of these are ongoing. They mainly fall within our specialist areas of oncology, diabetes and neuroscience; in particular, neurodegeneration and diabetes projects which equate each to 30% of our total contribution to IMI. All these projects are driven by outstanding scientists that are inspired by the passion to improve patient care in collaborative partnerships. 

An essential aspect of IMI is the fact that it involves health challenges across the spectrum. Beyond medicines development, current projects seek to improve access to medicines and care, enabling health technologies and precision medicine, fostering outcome-based healthcare solutions, and patient engagement – which are all equally essential to improving health for patients.

Two recently completed examples of IMI projects that Lilly engaged with include OncoTrack and Stembancc. The former has identified new approaches to tackle colon cancer, the third most common cancer and the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide; and the latter has involved generating high-quality human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines that will improve the drug development process and help to provide more effective and safer drugs.

The IMI website offers more information to all interested communities. But the message is clear:

  • IMI is unique and partnerships like it represent the only means by which we can realistically solve complex health challenges
  • IMI shows that health stakeholders are willing to work with each other and several projects delivered already very successful results which are shared together
  • IMI brings key experts together able to collaborate on a neutral platform for the benefit of patients
  • IMI is delivering throughout Europe

Happy birthday, IMI, and keep up the outstanding work. I am extremely proud to have been a part of the journey and I wish you many more years of success.


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