Research breakthroughs happen more easily when information is shared

Written by Pierre Meulien on 3 October 2017 in Thought Leader
Thought Leader

Research breakthroughs happen more easily when knowledge, data and resources are shared, explains Pierre Meulien.

Pierre Meulien | Photo credit: IMI

The history of medical research is filled with stories of individuals whose scientific breakthroughs have transformed the world. However, in our increasingly digitised world, solutions for complex health challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), are unlikely to come from one researcher, scientific institution or single company alone. 

New treatments for such diseases can only be developed in open innovation ecosystems which involve creating dynamic, multi-stakeholder collaborations across sectors, disciplines and borders.

Public-private partnerships, such as the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), are perfect instruments to boost open innovation ecosystems in Europe. 


By bringing together academics, pharmaceutical companies, SMEs, patient groups, and medicines regulators, our projects tackle some of today’s biggest challenges in medical research and drug development. And they are starting to deliver outstanding results.

Let’s take AMR as an example. AMR kills 700,000 people globally every year, and that figure could rise to 10 million by 2050. Our €700m antimicrobial programme encompasses seven projects that are starting to yield exciting results in diverse aspects of antibiotic development.

Our ENABLE project has both identified at least two molecules that show particularly promising anti-bacterial activity, and has found a new way of targeting drug resistant bacteria. These discoveries could potentially lead to the development of new antibiotics. 

Our Alzheimer’s disease (AD) projects are another good example. When it comes to AD, most potential drug candidates fail during clinical trials, resulting in significant setbacks in the development of effective treatments. 

Our Pharma-Cog project developed a matrix of clues (biomarkers) which has the potential to more accurately predict the success of future drugs in early stages of drug development.

It also found a better way to stratify patients with early signs of AD. All this could lead to more efficient and precise clinical trials, speeding up the development of AD drugs. At least one biotech SME in France is already using these results to test a promising new drug candidate.

IMI projects are also putting in place networks to make it easier to carry out large-scale, pan-EU clinical trials and studies.

In the AMR field, our COMBACTE family of projects now boasts a pan-European network of over 800 clinical sites which is already being used to run a number of promising new studies and trials. 

In the AD field, our EPAD project is making steady progress in recruiting 6,000 people for a major study which could add to our understanding of the earliest stages of dementia, opening up new avenues to prevent it. Our projects tell us that these results could not have been achieved by one company or research institute alone.

Research breakthroughs occur more easily through the sharing of knowledge, data and resources, and at IMI we believe that this is the right formula for future transformative discoveries.


About the author

Pierre Meulien is Executive Director of the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a public-private partnership between the EU and the European pharmaceutical industry

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