Neuronet convenes annual event on European research collaboration in Alzheimer’s disease & beyond

Neuronet, a coordination and support action funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), brings together 21 IMI consortium projects working on neurodegenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s), encompassing over EUR 386 million in research funding.

The Neuronet programme held four parallel sessions as part of the Alzheimer Europe conference on 29 November to 1 December 2021. This involved showcasing public and patient involvement, common challenges & lessons learned, how preclinical research can have a potential impact on people’s lives and have a look into the future as well as the portfolio’s impact.

The first parallel session was chaired by Dianne Gove from Alzheimer Europe. It was entitled “Elevating the patient voice: public involvement in Innovative Medicines Initiative neurodegeneration projects”. The four presentations in this session introduced the work of involving the public, patients as well as people affected by neurodegenerative conditions in IMI projects. First, Ana Diaz (Alzheimer Europe) spoke about Alzheimer Europe’s work to promote Public Involvement in dementia research. Next, Stina Saunders & a member of the participant panel (The University of Edinburgh) introduced the lessons from the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia Research Participant Panel. After that, Johanna Graeber (University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein) reflected on the patient involvement & engagement in IDEA-FAST. The session closed with a presentation by Alison Keogh (University College Dublin) on a roadmap of activity to develop patient and public involvement and engagement structures in Mobilise-D.

The second parallel session was chaired by Carlos Diaz from SYNAPSE, who is Neuronet coordinator. The session revolved around “Collaboration and best practice: common challenges & lessons learned from the Innovative Medicines Initiative neurodegeneration portfolio”.

After an introduction to the Neuronet approach on supporting collaboration and showcasing achievements, by Carlos Diaz. Four consortium members introduced the work that has been done as part of Neuronet’s Working Groups, followed by a general discussion between panel members. The speakers included:

  • Lennert Steukers (Janssen) – Data sharing & Re-use
  • Dalia Dawoud (NICE) – Health Technology Assessment/Regulatory
  • Angela Bradshaw (Alzheimer Europe) – Ethics & Patient Privacy
  • Lewis Killin (SYNAPSE) – Sustainability

The third session  was chaired by Craig Ritchie, Director of the Centre for Dementia Prevention at Edinburgh University, and was entitled “From bench to bedside: preclinical research in Innovative Medicines Initiative neurodegeneration projects”. In this session, Shruti Desai (RadboudUMC) started with a presentation about the quantification of mitochondrial morphofunction in neuronal cells that is being investigated within the PD-MitoQUANT project. Next, Tania Fowke (MIMETAS) reported on the progress building on the neurovascular model they developed during the ADAPTED project, as they are working on blood-brain barrier and neurovascular unit models, including a model of stroke which frequently co-occurs with Alzheimer’s disease as part of the IM2PACT project where (in collaboration with Horizon 2020 projects ENTRAIN and CoSTREAM). Showcasing how developments from closed projects can be repurposed and developed further. After that, Yang Shi (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology) introduced the most recent findings from the IMPRiND project about the structure-based classification of tauopathies and identification of PET ligand binding sites, a significant contribution to the field which was acknowledged as a front cover feature of Nature. The session closed with a presentation by Jannis Wißfeld (University Hospital Bonn) who presented about Alzheimer’s disease and PHAGO’s findings that a protective variant of CD33 increases microglial activation.

The fourth session was chaired by Lennert Steukers (Janssen), entitled “Looking to the future: Impact of the Innovative Medicines Initiative’s neurodegeneration portfolio”. It started with two presentations:

  • Fatima Salih (NICE) – Outcomes from the consultation on the IMI neurodegenerative disease research agenda
  • Carlos Diaz (SYNAPSE) – Neuronet’s NEURO Cohort, Knowledge Base & Asset Map

This was then followed by a roundtable discussion involving representatives of a HTA/regulatory authority – Fatima Salih (NICE), an SME – Carlos Diaz (SYNAPSE), Industry – Laurent Pradier (SANOFI), Patient advocacy – Angela Bradshaw (Alzheimer Europe) as well as academia – Martin Hofmann-Apitius (Fraunhofer SCAI), bringing together the perspectives from a wide range of stakeholders to the table.