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iMM-CARE | Boosting clinical research for the benefit of society

Funding Agency European Commission

Funding Programme Horizon Europe

Call/Topic Teaming for Excellence (HORIZON-WIDERA-2022-ACCESS-01-two-stage)

Project Reference 101060102

Start Date 2023.05.01

Duration 72 months

Total Investment EUR 41 750 000 (EU contribution: EUR 15 000 000)

Project Coordinator Instituto de Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes

Project Beneficiaries Instituto de Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes, Fundacion Hospital Universitari Vall D'hebron - Institut De Recerca (VHIR)


Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Research Executive Agency (REA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.


The pandemic and our reaction to it made it clear that, together, we can solve the most pressing health challenges. This realisation changed our mindset and shaped the strategic goal of extending our scientific excellence and technology capacity to establish iMM as a Centre of Excellence in human-centred clinical and translational research - iMM-CARE. This is the missing piece to fully unlock the potential of iMM and CAML to nurture and accelerate biomedical innovation to ultimately improve human health. To accomplish this, iMM will teamed up with Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Institute of Research (VHIR), a world-leading healthcare complex where healthcare, research, teaching and innovation go hand in hand. Having VHIR as a role model and strategic partner will enable us to create the framework and actions to have the best health care and research on a single campus, catalysing a virtuous continuum across all stages of biomedical research, from bench to bedside and back again.

iMM-CARE will develop and promote excellence in clinical and translational research, profoundly transforming how clinical and translational research is conceptualized, planned and implemented to deliver effective solutions to the most pressing health needs. The CoE will have at its core a mission-driven, human-centred, data-driven research and innovation (R&I) model as a new way to engage all stakeholders – citizens, patients, healthcare professionals, scientists, entrepreneurs, industry, health authorities and government – in interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral collaborations to solve health challenges.


iMM-CARE will deliver a pioneering R&I model to respond to 12 disease-specific missions, co-designed by the consortium and international Key Opinion Leaders having in mind citizens’ needs.

Four missions are already defined:

  • Mission 1 Improve early Colorectal Cancer (CRC) screening to cover at least 50% of the Portuguese population in the age group 40-75;
  • Mission 2 Reduce the incidence and mortality of Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC), with the primary goal of increasing early (stage I) diagnosis from 30% to 70% within the next 10 years;
  • Mission 3 Improve early detection of pediatric brain tumours recurrence using sensitive methods to detect Minimal Residual Disease (MRD);

Each Mission will be executed through specific R&I Flagship projects (pilot flagships 1-3 associated with Missions 1-3, followed by open calls for the remaining flagships). Open calls will be publicly announced, from 2024.

Think, Train, Transform

iMM-CARE Capacity-building objectives to create the required framework conditions for excellent clinical and translational research.

  • Establish 3 advanced training programmes to endow healthcare staff (e.g. clinicians and nurses) with the necessary skills and tools to engage in R&I activities, and to provide dedicated training of clinical research staff within these facilities to accelerate organisational and operational changes. We expect over 300 healthcare professionals to benefit from the training activities.
  • Create 3 new shared facilities in key domains for the digital transformation of biomedical and clinical research: Omics & Bioinformatics Facility; Data Sciences & Artificial Intelligence Facility; and Blockchain Technology Facility.
  • Consolidate the iMM Biobank as a leading national resource, and international reference in biobank research, adopting the VHIR best practices and increasing outreach to new partners and clients in industry, hospitals and academia. From 17.250 samples supplied in the last 5 years (total collection turnover of 8%), our target is to supply 50,000 samples for an average turnover of 25%.
  • Establish 12 new longitudinal biobank collections as a critical resource for the disease-specific missions defined, representing a long-lasting investment in critical research resources that will feed all stages of biomedical research.
  • Establish a single clinical research platform to centralise and streamline the fragmented clinical research activities at the CAML based on the successful experience and international leadership of VHIR in the field. By the end of the project, we expect to triple the number of clinical trials from the current 200 per year to 600 per year.
  • Transform the Medical Diagnostics Centre (MDC) created for the COVID-19 diagnostics operation into the Mission Labs, which will support the implementation of the flagship R&I projects with design, testing, scale-up and deployment capacities.

Ignite, Research, Innovate

iMM-CARE Research and Innovation Objectives to define and implement open innovation R&I activities to accelerate the development of innovative ideas and solutions for the disease-specific missions;

  • Establish the iMM-CARE Digital Gateway as the single access point to engage and articulate all health R&I stakeholders in iMM-CARE training, open innovation, open science and exploitation activities. The iMM-CARE Digital Gateway will comprise 3 Digital Hubs (Clinical and Translational Research Hub, Open Innovation Hub and Open Science Hub) to cluster the services, tools and resources needed to streamline engagement and participation.
  • Establish Ignition Platforms to stimulate the collaboration between basic, translational and clinical researchers, researchers in other scientific disciplines, citizens and patient associations, healthcare organisations, innovators, industry and government in the co-design of human-centred clinical and translational R&I projects. 8 Ignition Platforms will be established for each of the 8 disease-specific missions to be defined.
  • Implement 4 pilot flagship R&I projects to respond to the disease-specific missions already defined. The pilot flagship R&I projects will serve as models for the projects to be selected and funded through the Open Calls.
  • Launch 4 Open Calls to select and fund additional flagship R&I projects that respond to the challenges of the 8 disease-specific missions to be defined. The aim is to fund up to 20 flagship R&I projects in total.
  • Promote 5 innovation challenges to source external knowledge and solutions for iMM-CARE’s R&I priorities and problem-focused challenges related with AI and blockchain, citizen science and social sciences research.
  • Transform the attitudes of citizens and patients towards basic, translational and clinical research in an open innovation environment, through a more active involvement in the different phases of the research process and active engagement and participation in biobanking and clinical trials, ultimately contributing to accelerate biomedical innovation and improve human health. The aim is to reach a satisfaction level above 70% of citizens participating in R&I activities.

Exploit, Transfer, Deliver

iMM-CARE Knowledge Transfer Objectives to capitalise on the capacities and key exploitable results generated, widen access to upgraded clinical and translational research infrastructures; protect and transfer intellectual property (IP) assets; create and consolidate start-ups to retain value in Portugal; and deliver value-based health solutions to society.

  • Develop a robust business plan to guide and support exploitation, business development and fundraising activities for the sustainability of iMM-CARE. Our target is to generate 250 million euros in funding from different sources (competitive funding, industry collaboration, revenues from clinical research infrastructures services and philanthropic donations) over the next 10 years.
  • Establish a solid framework to manage, protect and transfer the knowledge and intellectual property generated in iMM-CARE R&I activities. These should translate into at least 30 new patent applications and 50 partnering and licensing agreements with industry and other research organisations by the end of the project.
  • Create new start-ups and support the growth of existing start-ups as optimal vehicles to ensure wide exploitation of intellectual property assets and to strengthen the life sciences sector in Portugal. 2 editions of the venture development programme will be promoted to support at least 10 start-ups.
  • Increase the participation of the national health R&I stakeholders in EU funding programs’ key initiatives and research infrastructures. At least 50 national R&I organisations should be supported by iMM-CARE to participate in European R&I activities.
  • Deliver novel preventive, diagnostic and personalised medicine services. At the end of the project, we expect to have at least 5 new services delivered by the Mission Labs based on results of flagship R&I projects.
  • Promote and disseminate an articulated set of practices, tools and services to stimulate and advance open science and data management in clinical and translational research, in synergy with the main EU and national initiatives, in line with the FAIR principles and observing the necessary ethical, legal and socioeconomic implications (ELSI). Tools and services in the Open Science Hub are expected to support more than 500 researchers in academia and industry.


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Laura Ward | Senior Project Manager iMM-CARE

To meet the rest of the CARE team, please visit individual unit pages:

  • Translational Research Lines
  • Mission Lab
  • Biobank