Innovative Health Initiative: improving health, improving healthcare

The latest Innovative Health Initiative (IHI) call for proposals is designed to improve patient outcomes through better use of medicines, and to make healthcare decisions smarter by tapping into real-world data. It is just the latest example of how this major public-private partnership is translating scientific advances into benefits for society.

The IHI, with a total budget of €2.4 billion, is jointly funded by the EU and Europe’s life science industries. It is the successor to the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), and brings together the biopharmaceutical, biotechnology, digital health and medical technology sectors, as well as academics, patients, regulators and healthcare professionals.

EFPIA is proud to be an active member of this partnership. We are committed to IHI because we have seen the fruits of these collaborations, and we firmly believe there is potential to harness this spirit of collaboration to solve the challenges facing healthcare by working together. In fact, some of the health challenges we face as a society can only be tackled by combining our skills, knowledge and resources to make an impact.


Changing the healthcare conversation

One of the key qualities of IHI projects is their capacity to shift how we think about health challenges. By applying new tools and knowledge, from genetics to artificial intelligence (AI), scientists, health professionals, patients and others are supporting evidence-based conversations about major challenges such as chronic disease management.

Take obesity, for example. Obesity affects 150 million people in Europe and 650 million worldwide, putting people at greater risk of health complications like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But how exactly does obesity shape people’s risk of complications? And can we predict which people with obesity are at higher risk?

The SOPHIA project (2020-2025) brings together companies, universities, hospitals, patients and others to explore how future obesity therapy can be optimised in a way that is patient-centred. The consortium has already shed new light on the mechanisms that link type 2 diabetes and obesity and it has developed an online tool to predict weight loss following bariatric surgery.

In a paper published in Nature Metabolism, the SOPHIA researchers showed that genetic differences in some people with obesity could help protect them from developing diabetes. Their ongoing work to understand biomarkers that make people susceptible or resistant to developing type 2 diabetes could hold valuable opportunities for prevention and treatment.

The consortium’s AI-based tool for predicting surgery outcomes has the potential to inform clinical decisions and to empower people with obesity to play an active role in the patient journey. This work has been published in The Lancet Digital Health.


Healthy mothers, healthy babies

Many aspects of our health are shaped in utero and in the early stages of infancy. That is one of the reasons why the health of women who are pregnant or breastfeeding is so important. However, historically, women have been excluded from medical research during pregnancy and early motherhood. As a result, only 5% of medications have detailed safety information on their use during this critical phase. For women and their healthcare professionals, this makes it difficult – sometimes, impossible – to make informed decisions about their treatment.

The ConcePTION (2019-2024) project includes a large consortium of stakeholders committed to changing this. Their goal is to create a trusted system capable of providing evidence-based information on the safety of medicines in a way that is efficient, systematic and ethical. To do this, project partners are advancing how data is collected and used, as well as creating the first Europe-wide breast milk biobank for research purposes and developing tools to predict which medicines are likely to be transferred to breast milk.


Accelerating impact

The latest IHI call for proposals (Call 6) continues in this spirit of collaboration, focused using data to address big issues facing patients and health systems. It aims to support healthcare system resilience by getting more from advances in medicines for chronic diseases.

Despite the development of medicines with the potential to improve the lives of people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, the full benefits of these therapies are not always achieved. The project that will be selected and funded under this call topic should support patients in persistently following treatment regimens and, ultimately, enjoy better outcomes. Not only would this have direct positive impacts on people with chronic diseases, but it would also reduce the future demand on health services that arise from suboptimal treatment.

Another topic under the same Call will also support initiatives aimed at developing evidence-based practical guidance for the use of real-world data and real-world evidence. This information could be used to inform the work of regulators, health technology assessment (HTA) bodies, payers and others. Ultimately, this would deliver for patients and health systems by unlocking data, tools and technologies to drive smarter decision-making.

In sum, these ongoing and future IHI projects can add real value for European society. They illustrate the spirit of partnership by delivering more solutions together than any single participant can achieve alone.


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Magda Chlebus

Magda Chlebus, Executive Director of Science Policy & Regulatory Affairs at EFPIA, is in charge of policy and...
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