IMI impact: improving the lives of people with diabetes

One in 10 Europeans has been diagnosed with diabetes. With an estimated 50% of cases believed to be undiagnosed, the true number of people affected is likely to be significantly higher.
The burden of diabetes is expected to rise in the coming years, affecting 80 million people in Europe by 2045. Europe has the highest number of children and adolescents (0-19 years) with type 1 diabetes. A combination of ageing populations, and lifestyle factors which are particularly important in type 2 diabetes, make the search for better treatments particularly urgent.
Managing diabetes well is vital for individual patients who are at elevated risk of complications ranging from stroke and kidney damage to blindness and mobility issues. These debilitating and sometimes life-threatening conditions also impose a heavy burden on health and social services.
Improving prevention, diagnosis and care is crucial. And, while finding a cure may be a bold aspiration, our best chance of success comes from combining expertise from the public and private sectors.
The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) has invested €300 million in 11 consortia with the potential to deepen our understanding of diabetes and pave the way for future cures. By joining forces, public and private partners have improved scientific knowledge of the mechanisms underlying Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Personalised treatments
Together, researchers are harnessing knowledge from a range of fields, including the latest discoveries from genetics. By bringing the best knowledge, understanding and data to the table, IMI has provided tools for more precise diagnosis and treatment of diabetes with aspirations to one day cure the disease.
IMI initiatives have explored how biomarkers can provide information on an individual’s risk of developing diabetes and on disease progression. These indicators can also play a role in treatment monitoring and in predicting how patients may respond to treatment. 
A number of IMI projects have delivered non-competitive platforms designed to catalyse research. For example, the IMIDIA project, which studied beta cells from the pancreas, led to the identification and validation of the first human beta cell line. These cells behave in the lab in the same way as they do in the body – providing a valuable scientific platform for developing the next generation of diabetes therapies. 
Separately, the INNODIA project has developed a clinical trial master protocol which makes it easier and faster to launch clinical trials for Type 1 diabetes therapies. Since the protocol was approved by the European Medicines Agency in early 2020, four such trials have already begun and more are likely to follow.

Accelerating access
As the need for new solutions is significant and growing steadily, accelerating patient access to innovation is essential. By developing new surrogate markers, imaging technologies and research models, IMI projects such as SUMMIT, are helping to make trials more reliable and efficient.
Other initiatives, including Hypo-RESOLVE, have identified new clinically meaningful endpoints for hypoglycaemic episodes. Not only can these endpoints be used in future clinical trials, they could serve as early warning signs to alert patients or their loved ones before the onset of hypoglycaemia.
A number of IMI projects that focused on patient engagement have the potential to make research more patient centric. By involving patients in the lifecycle of medicines, PARADIGM will help to ensure that research findings are relevant to patients’ needs.
For its part, EUPATI – the European Patients’ Academy on Therapeutic Innovation – has trained expert patients across Europe, empowering them to engage with scientists, ethics committees regulators on medicines development. This has resulted in a high level of awareness of the R&D process within patient communities impacting the advisory roles of patients for pharmaceutical companies, regulatory and reimbursements bodies.

IMI and IMI2 projects have contributed to significant advances in knowledge on diabetes, serving as a catalyst for research. By combining their complementary expertise, public and private actors have helped to deliver more precise treatments for a common but complex disease.

Jorgen Dirach

Jorgen Dirach, MD, MBA, FFPM, is Senior Director, Public-Private Partnerships at the Global Chief Medical Office...
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Thorsten Strube

Thorsten Strube, PhD is a global Alliance Manager for Public-Private Partnerships within the Sanofi Partnering...
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