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At Vaccines Europe our thoughts are with all those affected by the recent outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Vaccines Europe, part of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), stands in support with the global community and the World Health Organization (WHO) to the current outbreak of COVID-19 acute respiratory disease.
Our industry welcomes the decision taken by the WHO to declare it as a public health emergency of international concern and believes the measures taken reflect the serious nature of this public health threat. Considering the public health and humanitarian implications, we are committed to joining global efforts to care for those affected, contain the outbreak and develop resources to tackle future outbreaks.
As a representative of major innovative research-based vaccine manufacturers in Europe, Vaccines Europe encourages greater exchange of information and dialogue with other stakeholders on how to address this important public health issue. Our members are actively contributing to research efforts to develop potential CoV vaccine candidates,,,. We believe that greater coordination could reduce inefficiencies, strengthen and accelerate efforts in identifying potential CoV vaccines.
Europe’s collaborative research community has responded to global health crises before. Through efforts such as the Innovative Medicines Initiative and other public-private partnerships, we advanced new Ebola vaccine candidates, and diagnostics, and developed new identification and compliance tools. Collaborating in this way has the potential to accelerate development of resources to tackle this outbreak. It enables networks of centres of excellence that can deliver real impact and create a preparedness infrastructure which can be mobilized for future outbreaks.
BRUSSELS, 21 JANUARY 2020: At an event held in the European Parliament today, policymakers noted the lack of progress made by EU Member States towards the EU’s 75% target for seasonal influenza vaccination coverage rates among older-age and at-risk groups[i], first adopted in the EU Council Recommendation on seasonal influenza vaccination in 2009.[ii]
Speakers from the European Commission, European Parliament, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) all agreed on the need to seize the opportunity presented by the 10-year milestone of the 2009 Recommendation to renew efforts to boost coverage rates and address the major public health challenges associated with seasonal influenza.
Building on a new study on public perceptions of seasonal influenza disease and vaccination in four EU countries[iii] and leveraging some national best practices, panellists stressed the need for all influenza stakeholders to gather in simultaneously addressing influenza vaccine confidence, convenience and complacency issues.
Potential solutions were discussed and identified, which would help addressing specific challenges and make progress towards the ten-year-old 75% seasonal influenza vaccination target, such as:
MEP Dolors Montserrat (EPP, ES), co-host of the event and former Spanish Health Minister, said that “to progress towards a broader vaccination coverage, especially for people with chronic diseases, we need to:
“The EU has given vaccination a lot of political attention recently – not least through the 2018 Council Recommendation on Strengthened Cooperation Against Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, the EU Joint Action on Vaccination, and the 2019 Global Vaccination Summit. But dwindling seasonal influenza vaccination coverage rates show that much more needs to be done – both at EU and national level” said Magdalena R. de Azero, Executive Director of Vaccines Europe, which organised the event. Ms de Azero concluded: “This event underlines the need for institutions, governments, healthcare professionals and industry to work together to address this challenge.”
Seasonal influenza poses a significant but often under-recognised challenge to EU health systems. Compared to other infectious diseases, it has the highest impact in terms of mortality and incidence and is estimated to cause up to 70,000 deaths in the EU each year, particularly among older age groups.[ix][x] Its impact is particularly acute among the elderly and other at-risk groups.
Latest EU data (2017, published in 2019) shows that no EU Member State has reached the 75% target for coverage rates. In fact, many countries have seen rates decline, some going as low as single digits (Latvia 6.9%, Estonia 4.8%). The best-in-class EU country, the UK, has seen rates consistently around 70% in recent years (currently 72.6%).[xi]
About Vaccines Europe
Formed in 1991, Vaccines Europe is a specialised group of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) that represents major innovative research-based vaccine companies as well as small and medium-sized enterprises operating in Europe which account for a large share of human vaccines used worldwide.
Ms. Magdalena R. De Azero
Vaccines Europe Executive Director
[iii] Full study to be published in the near future. Presented by Professor Frederic Bouder of the University of Stavanger.
Brussels, Belgium, 21 January 2020 – Today, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is launching a new Call for proposals with funding opportunities in cancer, tuberculosis, vaccines, psoriatic arthritis and drugs based on proteins. IMI2 – Call 20 has a total budget of EUR 273 million. IMI will contribute EUR 133 million to the projects funded under the Call; these funds come from Horizon 2020 and will support the participation in the projects of organisations such as universities, small and medium-sized enterprises, and patient groups. EFPIA companies and IMI Associated Partners will contribute EUR 140 million, mostly as ‘in kind’ contributions (e.g. staff time, access to equipment, etc.).
Pierre Meulien, IMI Executive Director commented: ‘Beating cancer is a priority for the new European Commission, and the cancer-focused topics in this Call for proposals will contribute to that goal by bringing together leading experts from universities, small companies, patient groups and diverse industries including pharmaceutical and medical technology companies. In this Call we are also tackling a major global health problem – tuberculosis – and will be developing new ways of treating this chronic disease and hopefully reducing the spread of antibiotic resistance in TB. ’
Understanding the rare cancer cells behind drug resistance
Once a cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it is very hard to cure it. Often, patients respond well to a drug for a time before the cancer becomes resistant to it, and this drug resistance is a major cause of cancer mortality. The source of this drug resistance lies in rare cancer cells called ‘drug tolerant persister’ cells, or DTPs. Studies show that DTPs survive drug treatments by altering the activity of certain genes. The goal of this topic is to add to our understanding of DTPs, including their genetic sequences and microenvironment, and to develop tools to collect and analyse them. It will focus on non-small cell lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer but may also carry out studies on other adult and childhood cancers.
Is proton therapy better than radiotherapy for treating certain cancers?
Radiotherapy plays a key role in the treatment of many cancers. However, as it can cause side effects in surrounding organs, the dose is limited meaning that treatment takes longer and can be less effective. In contrast proton therapy delivers a higher dose of radiation that is more focused on the tumour itself, limiting damage to other, healthy organs. The goal of this topic is to assess the usefulness of proton therapy as a treatment compared to radiotherapy, using oesophageal cancer as a case study. Radiation therapy boosts survival rates for oesophageal cancer, but the disease still kills 500 000 people worldwide every year, meaning further improvements in treatment are urgently needed. In the long term, the results of this topic should also prove useful for other types of cancer.
Innovation and treatment for tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is the leading infectious cause of death worldwide, killing around 1.5 million people annually. Treatment consists of a combination of drugs taken for at least six months, or even longer in patients whose disease is resistant to frontline treatments. The long treatment time, coupled with the side effects of some drugs, lead some patients to stop taking their antibiotics, and this contributes to drug resistance. Identifying new treatment combinations that could shorten the treatment time and tackle drug resistance is difficult and time-consuming. The goal of this topic is to develop and carry out innovative clinical trial designs to identify new treatment combinations using drugs that have already undergone initial studies in humans. The topic will also develop and evaluate new technologies to monitor and enhance treatment adherence. The topic is part of IMI’s Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Accelerator programme.
Accelerating vaccine development and manufacture
Vaccines are a huge public health achievement, but developing a new vaccine is very costly, time consuming and risky. Recent years have seen advances in academia and biotech companies in the fields such as immunology, big data and artificial intelligence. The aim of this topic is to incorporate these advances into the vaccine industry, and to develop biological and mathematical models that are better at predicting how well a vaccine will work. Ultimately, the hope is that this will accelerate and de-risk the development of new vaccines.
Improving the lives of people with psoriatic arthritis
Around 20-30% of people with the immune disease psoriasis go on to develop arthritis. However, all too often, patients experience symptoms for many years before they are diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. Furthermore, the treatments for psoriatic arthritis do not work for all patients. The aim of this topic is to deliver tools that will allow doctors to diagnose psoriatic arthritis earlier, and even predict which psoriasis patients are at greatest risk of developing arthritis. It will also shed new light on factors that could indicate how a psoriatic arthritis patient’s disease will progress over time, and this will allow the development of personalised treatments.
Focus on the quality of drugs based on proteins
Many new medicines are based on proteins, and these have dramatically improved the lives of people with a range of diseases. However, ensuring the quality of protein drug products both during and after manufacture is far from easy. If stored or handled inappropriately during transport, or at the hospital, pharmacy or patient’s home, the proteins can break down, compromising the safety and efficacy of the product. This topic has two objectives: firstly, to improve our understanding of how protein drugs are handled in the real world and the effect this has on product quality; and secondly, to develop guidelines, processes and training to improve the way protein drug products are handled by different stakeholders.
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Notes to Editors
For more information on IMI2 – Call 20, visit www.imi.europa.eu/apply-
Webinars on all topics plus IMI’s rules and procedures and opportunities for SMEs will be held from 22-31 January.
The full list of topics is:
Catherine Brett – External Relations Manager
Tel: +32 2 541 8214 | Mobile: +32 484 896227 | E-mail: catherine.brett@imi.
About the Innovative Medicines Initiative
The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is working to improve health by speeding up the development of, and patient access to, the next generation of medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need. It does this by facilitating collaboration between the key players involved in healthcare research, including universities, pharmaceutical companies, other companies active in healthcare research, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), patient organisations, and medicines regulators. This approach has proven highly successful, and IMI projects are delivering exciting results that are helping to advance the development of urgently-needed new treatments in diverse areas.
IMI is a partnership between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry, represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Through the IMI 2 programme, IMI has a budget of €3.3 billion for the period 2014-2020. Half of this comes from the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. The other half comes from large companies, mostly from the pharmaceutical sector; these do not receive any EU funding, but contribute to the projects ‘in kind’, for example by donating their researchers’ time or providing access to research facilities or resources.