The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) was created in 2008 as a public-private partnership between the European Union and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).[1] Its overall goal is to increase the competitiveness of R&D in the European pharmaceutical sector by encouraging companies to work with each other and with the public sector.

Over the past decade, IMI has expanded its activities beyond the pharmaceutical sector and it also partners with medicine regulators; health technology assessment groups; patient organizations; and other stakeholders, including associated partners such as the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. IMI-supported projects now range from remote decentralized clinical trials (Trials@Home) and multi-partner AI platforms for drug discovery (MELLODDY) to finding better biomarkers for testing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (LITMUS).[2]

IMI currently controls around €3 billion in investments.

On March 3, IMI launched a COVID-19 funding call to develop treatments and diagnostics to better tackle the Coronavirus outbreak and to increase preparedness for potential future outbreaks.[3] IMI has already committed €45 million, though total funds are expected to be set at €90 million.

Proposals could include potential drugs that are already at a very advanced stage of development, or an existing, approved drug that could be “repurposed” to treat COVID-19. Also of interest is the development of diagnostic tests to rapidly and reliably identify people infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and for use in clinical trials of new drugs. Vaccine development is excluded from the scope of this call.

Applicant consortia can mobilize resources through the inclusion of contributing partners (for example, an EFPIA company or affiliated entity, or an IMI Associated Partner), which is expected to have a favorable effect on the application assessment. Several contributing partners have already expressed an interest in joining an applicant consortium, including AbbVie, Astellas, Bayer, E-Pharma, Enyo Pharma, IDbyDNA, Merck, Novartis, Special Product’s Line SpA and Takeda.[4]

The deadline for submitting applications is March 31, 2020.

At the same time, the European Medicine Agency (EMA) has activated its plan for managing emerging health threats.[5] The overall aim of the plan is to draw on the expertise of the European medicines network to provide fast-track scientific advice and give prompt feedback on any proposed medicine developments (which may follow, for example, from the IMI COVID-19 call).