Landmark moment for Innovative Health Initiative (IHI)

At the start of a journey, there is often a sense of excitement mixed with curiosity, optimism and even a little trepidation. It is with this sense of a new beginning that we welcome the launch of the first calls for proposals for IHI projects.

The publication of the calls marks the culmination of years of preparatory work by a wide range of stakeholders, building on more than a decade of experience developed through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). This is, however, just the end of the beginning. Now the real adventure begins.

The IHI goes beyond the new territory charted by the IMI and sets a course for a broader, bolder public private partnership. It is unprecedented in the scale of investment committed by industry and the EU, and in the breadth of stakeholders that can join IHI projects.

All partners know some challenges are too big to solve alone. This is reflected in the first calls 1 and 2 which focus on timely topics that matter to patients, policymakers and the healthcare research community. There is a clear sense that IHI intends to address the top issues on the EU health agenda, to tackle areas of unmet medical need, and to advance new models of working together to deliver change.

Making innovation matter

With this in mind, it is natural that cancer – a policy priority for the EU, and a personal priority for citizens across Europe – is among the first areas for collaborative new projects. The Europe Beating Cancer Plan and the EU Mission on cancer research have given fresh political momentum to oncology research. The IHI will seize the chance to accelerate progress in how cancer is diagnosed and managed.

Advances in diagnostic imaging create opportunities for earlier identification of tumours and targeted cancer therapies, helping healthcare systems deliver better outcomes for patients in the most efficient manner. It builds on developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning to ensure better decision-making and use of resources. Bringing these benefits to more patients and hospitals can improve quality of life and survival rates for citizens across Europe.

At the same time, a complementary call aims to turn the promise of personalised oncology into a reality by fostering an innovative and people-centred approach to cancer care. Moving from a one-size-fits-all model to a personalised patient pathway can be achieved by integrating innovation in biomarkers and novel therapeutics. These are areas where IHI partners can combine their expertise as never before.

Similarly, calls targeting cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases will tap into the expertise and innovation required to build a collaborative platform that can predict, prevent and manage some of the highest impact non-communicable conditions affecting European populations. These projects can take research and care to new heights, with more precise diagnosis, better adherence, fewer hospitalisations and, ultimately, better patient experiences.

I am also excited to see a strong focus on unlocking the potential of data to improve care in areas of unmet public health need. Arriving on the heels of a proposal for creating the European Health Data Space, this call looks at the practicalities of making it easier to access and use heterogenous data.

With health information often stored in a variety of places and formats, it is vital that we apply tools and standards that can extract real value from data. The call illustrates how the IHI can be at the cutting edge in areas with high potential to catalyse research, empower patients to own their own data, and allow healthcare professionals to apply data-driven insights to care.  

Let’s go further, together

Reviewing the first round of calls, it is worth keeping in mind the essential added value of the IHI: collaboration. As we embark on these new partnerships, I am reminded of the old proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. I look forward to seeing where this journey takes us.

Magda Chlebus

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