Start of new EU research project HIPPOCRATES: promoting early identification and improving outcomes for patients with psoriatic arthritis

European research partners, pharmaceutical companies, SMEs and patient organisations have joined forces to develop innovative personalised treatment options for people affected by psoriatic arthritis.

Dublin, 2nd July 2021 – By looking into the disease mechanisms of psoriatic arthritis, the 26 partners collaborating in the new research project HIPPOCRATES aim at improving diagnostic and therapeutic options for patients living with this condition. Through gaining a better understanding of the complex interplay between clinical and environmental factors, genotype and molecular pathways, the team aims to enable earlier diagnosis and a more accurate prediction of disease progression. This will revolutionise treatment and deliver profound patient benefits. The project will run for a period of five years with a total budget of EUR 21 million provided by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI 2), a Joint Undertaking of the European Union and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Of the total budget, 50 % are contributed by the EFPIA partners and 50 % by the EU.

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic immune-mediated inflammatory disease that affects joints and other components of the musculoskeletal system, together with skin involvement in an estimated 1-2 % of the general population. The symptoms of the disease and the patient impact include impact on productivity (e.g. pain, joint stiffness and fatigue).For the EU, this translates into ~5 to 10 million people. Overall, it is increasingly recognised that PsA is associated with comorbidities, particularly those which promote the development of accelerated atherosclerosis and contribute to the observed increase in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. PsA most commonly develops on a background of established skin and/or nail psoriasis and it is characterised by an considerable heterogeneity with regards to clinical features, disease progression and response to targeted therapies and there are no good predictors of response to to therapies. Future treatments will need to focus on earlier disease stages and be selected on the basis of detailed patient molecular profiling so as to limit poor long-term outcomes and possibly prevent the development of PsA altogether.

“We anticipate that the advances provided by HIPPOCRATES will result in significant new developments that improve patients’ quality of life”, says Prof. Oliver FitzGerald, Newman Clinical Research Professor at University College Dublin, Conway Institute for Biomedical and Biomolecular Research, Ireland coordinator of the HIPPOCRATES consortium. Co-coordinator, Prof. Stephen Pennington, Professor of Proteomics at University Colleague and also in the Conway Institute notes “The advances will include the identification of sub-populations and endotypes, the validation of existing and identification of new biomarkers, improved imaging options and the development of a sustainable infrastructure for future PsA research”. “This public-private partnership is a great opportunity to decipher this highly heterogenous disease, and to enable novel PsA therapies and treatment strategies including precision medicine approaches”, adds Dr. Christine Huppertz, Senior Principal Scientist in the Disease Area Autoimmunity, Transplantation and Inflammation at Novartis, and EFPIA lead of the consortium.

To this end, the HIPPOCRATES project will set up a single integrated database combining the cohorts and datasets of the most important European PsA studies and establish a Europe-wide library of relevant clinical biosamples. HIPPOCRATES will also establish a large (25,000), prospective, observational study of patients with psoriasis who will be recruited and followed on-line for development of PsA, with patient-centric blood sampling at defined intervals. Furthermore, the team of experts will evaluate and validate newly discovered biomarker signatures for the early diagnosis of PsA, for the identification of psoriasis patients at risk of developing PsA, for the identification of PsA patients at highest risk of damage progression and for personalised or stratified treatment strategies so as to maximise treatment response. Overall, HIPPOCRATES places particular emphasis on the involvement of patients, clinicians, primary care practitioners, regulators, SMEs (ATTUROS LIMITED, Oxford Biodynamics Limited and NEOTERYX LIMITED) and relevant large industry to meet the needs of all stakeholders and to maximise the project’s impact.

Formed as a transdisciplinary consortium, the project team comprises 26 partner institutions from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Led by University College Dublin, the partners contribute a diverse range of backgrounds including clinical, scientific, data analytics, ethics, patient participation as well as SME and pharmaceutical industry expertise in pursuit of the ambitious goals set for the HIPPPOCRATES project.

The first IMI2 project on PsA officially starts on 1st July 2021 and the virtual kick-off meetings took place on the afternoons of the 12th and 17th May 2021.