|Prof Kevin Brindle||Dr Maike de la Roche|
Professor Kevin Brindle and Dr Maike De la Roche to play key roles in a new €30 million Innovative Medicines Initiative grant, supporting research into novel tracer strategies for clinical imaging of immune cell dynamics.
The introduction of immunotherapies 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, a new €30 million grant from the IMI, will develop methods to visualise 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 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 Brindle and de la Roche Groups will validate new and existing immunotracers, including antibodies, nanobodies, peptides and small molecules that selectively target receptors on immune cells, as part of the Immune-Image consortium.
Using dynamic PET imaging, they will monitor the distribution of these immunotracers in mice with tumours that trigger the immune system. To validate the immunotracers, they will compare these PET images with non-invasive images (from MRI and PET) of the distribution and content of the immune cell targets of these tracers.
The ultimate aim of this work is to develop these novel gene reporters to a level where they could be used in the clinic to track immune cell infiltration, for example, during CAR T cell therapy.
Immune-Image brings together 10 top European academic institutions, 4 small-to-medium sized enterprises, 1 patient organisation and 7 pharmaceutical companies. The consortium hopes to establish a sustainable and flexible platform for molecular imaging of immune cell dynamics using a broad range of novel tracer strategies. New immunotracers will enable smart monitoring of immunotherapies and widespread usage of a personalised medicine approach.
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.
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.