Officially launched last week Immune-Image is a 22 stakeholder-strong consortium incorporating public and private partners across 9 countries, including VHIO and the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research (VHIR) as the only two participating entities from Spain. Powered by a 30 million EUR grant awarded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking (IMI 2 JU), this pioneering initiative is Led by Roche and coordinated by Albert Windhorst, Group Leader, Radiology Department, Amsterdam University Medical Center (VUmC), The Netherlands.  Set to run for an initial duration of five years, this project is entitled Specific imaging of immune cell dynamics using novel tracer strategies, and seeks to develop a novel non-invasive imaging strategy for assessing immune cell activation and dynamics in oncology and inflammatory disease.

Joining the nine other selected academic institutions, 4 SMEs, 1 patient organization, and 7 pharmaceutical companies, VHIO will help to establish a sustainable and flexible platform for molecular imaging of immune cell dynamics using a wide range of new tracer approaches. This project will ultimately potentiate immune-based therapies in precision oncology as well as deliver on the promise of personalized medicine for an increasing number of cancer patients, by enabling the smart monitoring of these anti-cancer medicines.

Immune-Image’s main deliverables are firstly to develop clinically validated radio-and optical immunotracers for the monitoring and measurement of immune cell presence, activation status and trafficking, and second, to design and implement a ready-to-use sustainable molecular imaging platform. This important resource will incorporate standardized protocols, best practices, quantitative image analyses, immune-based tracking design and development.

 “By pooling findings generated from functional, structural, advanced image analysis and radiomics, as well as biomarker data from biopsies and blood samples, we will assess, report on, and advance research into the various aspects of the immune response in individual patients,” said Josep Tabernero, VHIO’s Director and co-Principal Investigator of this project.

He added, “In so doing, we hope to generate precious insights that will not only help us to better predict those patients who would be most likely to derive benefit from these novel therapies, but also accelerate and optimize our drug discovery efforts”

Concerning VHIO’s role in the project, Joaquín Arribas, Co-Program Director of Preclinical and Translational Research at VHIO will use PDX and humanized PDX models to pre-clinically corroborate and characterize existing and newly developed immune tracers by longitudinal assessment (repeated imaging) and therapeutic intervention, as well as provide proof-of-concept data on modeling systems for subsequent clinical application.

To confirm the safety of the tracers under development and evidence their clinical utility in combination with anatomic imaging (MRI or CT) for patients with cancer as well as immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, a total of 8 clinical trials are envisaged and will be performed across  2-4  selected partners’ clinical sites.

Enriqueta Felip, Principal Investigator of VHIO’s Thoracic Tumors & Head and Neck Cancer Group will participate in the first study, Window of opportunity trial MMR-PET imaging in patients with NSCLC, and Elena Garralda Principal Investigator of VHIO’s Early Clinical Drug Development Group, and Director of our Research Unit for Molecular Therapy of Cancer (UITM) – ”la Caixa”, will co-lead the second, CD8 PET imaging in cancer patients before and during immune checkpoint inhibition, which will also count on the expertise of  Raquel Perez-Lopez who heads our Radiomics Group, who will perform studies for the detection of immune cell infiltration. Both clinical trials will be co-facilitated by VHIO’s Clinical Trials Support Unit led by Susana Muñoz.

For more information please see the general press release recently issued by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) below.

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Source:  Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)



Innovative Medicines Initiative awards 30 Million Euro grant supporting research into novel tracer strategies for clinical imaging of immune cell dynamics Immune cells in the spotlight

The Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking (IMI2 JU) project ‘Immune-Image’ has been approved for funding and will start officially [October 1st, 2019]. Immune cells will be studied in vivo using non-invasive and clinically applicable high-end imaging techniques including Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Optical Imaging (OI) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The introduction of immunotherapeutic drugs for the treatment of cancer and inflammatory disease, where the drugs encourage the body’s own immune system to attack the disease, have had a significant impact. However, immunotherapies do not work for all patients. Immune-Image will develop methods to visualize and study the immune cells involved before, during, and after such treatments allowing selection of the right treatment for the right patient and at the right time. The information obtained about the immune cells and their activity during disease could be used to develop new drugs that might help those patients for which current immunotherapies are ineffective.

Immune-Image brings together 10 top European academic institutions, 4 small-to-medium sized enterprises, 1 patient organization and 7 pharmaceutical companies. The expert scientists working at the partner organizations of Immune-Image will collaborate to develop new imaging techniques, new tracers, new methods, and to facilitate efficient development of drugs in the future in order to improve health care for the European Citizen and beyond.

About IMI2-JU

Developing new medicines is difficult, costly, inefficient and time-consuming. The IMI2-JU, a joint technology initiative between the European Union (EU) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), supports collaborative research projects that bring together all the parties involved in health research (universities, pharmaceutical and other industries, small and medium-sized enterprises, patient organizations, medicine regulators) to improve the entire development process and make it more efficient, giving patients faster access to better and safer medicines.

About Immune-Image

The project is coordinated by Prof Albert D. Windhorst, Amsterdam University Medical Center, location VUmc, The Netherlands, with scientific project leadership from F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, Basel, Switzerland. The project is intended to run for an initial period of 5-years with a total research budget of € 30,000,000; of which € 15,000,000 comes from the EU in the form of a grant and € 15,000,000 being financed by the pharmaceutical company partners (EFPIA), in the form of in-kind or in-cash contributions to the project.

The project is supported by a scientific board, chaired by Prof Sanjiv Gambhir, Stanford, USA and an ethics board, chaired by Prof Michael Fuchs, Linz, Austria. These boards will advise the consortium on research strategies and ethical issues.

This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 831514. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA.

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