IMI NEWMEDS project to find new treatments for schizophrenia and
6 June 2013
The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) NEWMEDS project brings
together seven academic research institutions, nine major
pharmaceutical companies and three SMEs to speed the quest for
schizophrenia and depression treatments.
The project aims to overcome the hurdles that are slowing
research and development, and smoothing the path to market for
treatments of these disabling mental disorders.
The project has made a number of breakthroughs. For example,
clinical trials in which patients on active treatment are compared
to patients taking a placebo normally take six weeks. However,
Newmeds has found that these trials could be shortened by a week or
two. NEWMEDS research also suggests that more women should be
included in trials; currently they account for under a third of
trial participants yet they respond less to placebos than men.
These results were made possible because the companies involved
in NEWMEDS have pooled their data to create the largest known
database of studies on schizophrenia, including information on over
23 000 patients from 67 studies in over 25 countries. The database
offers the industry and the academic community unique opportunities
for the development of tools and models that will help find targeted
treatments for schizophrenia.
An analysis of this data also revealed that so-called negative
schizophrenia symptoms (eg an inability to feel pleasure or act
spontaneously) could respond better in these studies than was
previously thought, something that has been largely overlooked
In addition, the project is shedding new light on the complex
biology of schizophrenia and depression. The teams are applying this
information to develop animal models that use brain imaging and
behavioural tests to bridge the gap between animal studies and human
clinical trials. The genetics of schizophrenia are also key to the
project; people whose parents both have schizophrenia have a 50%
chance of developing the disease themselves. For people with no
family history of schizophrenia, that figure is just 1%.
The project’s Academic Lead, Professor Shitij Kapur, MBBS, PhD,
FMedSci and Dean of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College
London, commented: "NEWMEDS is studying genetic risk factors for
schizophrenia called ‘copy number variations’ both in animal models
and humans. The results of these studies will help to determine
which changes and mechanisms in the brain are caused by these
factors, paving the way to the development of new treatments."
The project is also hunting for biomarkers that could be used to
signpost early signs of efficacy in new drugs tested in healthy
volunteers, or to match patients with the most effective drugs.
Project Coordinator Tine Bryan Stensbøl, Divisional Director,
Discovery Pharmacology Research, H. Lundbeck, said: "Neither
schizophrenia nor depression are a single entity, and in both
disease areas only certain patients respond to certain medications.
Different groups of patients should be treated in different ways,
and the NEWMEDS project could give us the tools to find new drugs
and test them in the patients most likely to respond."
These findings, and other new approaches to clinical trials that
are in development with the NEWMEDS researchers, could lead to
shorter human studies involving fewer people, which would get drugs
to the market faster and more cost effectively.
IMI Executive Director Michel Goldman said: "NEWMEDS exemplifies
how, by pooling existing data, organisations can make discoveries
that have a profound impact on drug research and development and
could really help to get new drugs to where they are most needed the
The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is the world’s largest
public-private partnership in healthcare. IMI is improving the
environment for pharmaceutical innovation in Europe by engaging and
supporting networks of industrial and academic experts in
collaborative research projects. The European Union contributes €1
billion to the IMI research programme, which is matched by in kind
contributions worth at least another €1 billion from the member
companies of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries
and Associations (EFPIA).