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Alzheimer Europe hosts European Parliament Workshop on “The Innovative Health Initiative: Building on the success of the Innovative Medicines Initiative”

Tuesday 28 September 2021

On 28 September, Alzheimer Europe hosted an online European Parliament Workshop with Neuronet, entitled “The Innovative Health Initiative: Building on the success of the Innovative Medicines Initiative” looking at the future public-private partnership between the EU and industry partners. Alzheimer Europe Chairperson Iva Holmerová chaired the event, which was attended by 65 people, including EU policymakers, representatives from national Alzheimer’s associations, national health ministries, pharmaceutical companies, researchers and members of the European Working Group of People with Dementia.

The opening presentation was made by Pierre Meulien, Executive Director, Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), who outlined the successes of IMI programmes-funded research projects focused on dementia. He explained that the public-private partnership model had been of particular value for dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases, due to the complexity of the conditions and the high drug attrition rates. As such, over EUR 315 million has been invested in research into brain disorders thus far by IMI, including projects which had changed our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as creating resources and infrastructure to facilitate future research in the field. The collaborative nature of the projects in IMI was identified as a particular strength of the IMI approach, including the involvement of patient organisations such as Alzheimer Europe. Looking to the future, the importance of enabling technologies at a pre-competitive phase and pan-European consortia were singled-out as key elements for future research collaborations in the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI).

Carlos Diaz, Neuronet project leader, Synapse, presented on lessons learned from IMI-funded projects and how the work of the the Neuronet project, which includes 20 different IMI neurodegeneration projects, was trying to find synergies across the neurodegeneration portfolio. He highlighted some of the Neuronet work to date, including its Knowledge Base, a dashboard which allows people to more easily search IMI neurodegenerative projects, their deliverables and tools. In addition, the creation of asset maps and network diagrams have allowed for visual representations of the different resources, as well as identifying potential research areas not addressed by existing projects. Some of the challenges with existing funding mechanisms and collaborations were highlighted, including the sustainability of activities beyond the life of projects, as well as a perceived disconnect between decision-makers and principal investigators. As such, he argued that there is an evident need for a systems leadership approach to these types of projects, as well as the need for a shift from a focus on projects to assets.

Nicolas Creff, Senior Manager Research Partnerships, Science Policy & Regulatory Affairs, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), presented on the forthcoming IHI, outlining the new collaboration between both pharmaceutical and pharma technology partners and highlighting that the new focus for the partnership will increasingly be on cross sector opportunities which make better use of data, drugs and medical devices. Furthermore, there will be a move towards broader themes of public health priorities, rather than specific diseases areas, however, there will be a consideration of aspects such as the prevalence of disease, high economic impacts and the transformational potential of research. It is expected that the legislative basis for the partnership should be completed by the end of the year, with calls potentially being issued as early as the first quarter of 2022.

Susan Wile Schwarz, Director of Communications, Global Coalition on Aging, presented an upcoming report, the Alzheimer’s Innovation Readiness Index, jointly written with Alzheimer’s Disease International. The report compares 10 European countries across 5 different domains: strategy and commitment; early diagnosis and detection; access to care; awareness and monitoring, and; care standards and settings. The report demonstrates that whilst there is some progress in countries, there remains significant variation across Europe, with many long-standing issues related to diagnosis, access to care and provision of adequate resources and funding, meaning that there are still significant difficulties for people with dementia and their carers across Europe. The report will be launched later in October 2021.

Concluding the Workshop, Iva Holmerová thanked presenters and participants for their contributions during the meeting and expressed hope that the next meeting would be in person. Videos from the event will be available on Alzheimer Europe's YouTube Channel: