The IMI Journey of Central Denmark (Guest blog)

Health Data and Collaborative Research
Health data is the nexus in collaborative medical research. It connects health systems and must be the basis for all health-related decisions starting with the patient and continuing through the entire health system to the regulatory level.  The health system in Denmark is one of the most advanced and technologically forward-thinking systems in the world. The culture and infrastructure for healthcare analytics that other countries are attempting to implement today have already been the standard practice in Denmark for nearly 20 years, thus providing a wealth of data for many international researchers.

The ecosystem of Central Denmark
Given the importance of a holistic patient journey – from prevention to active treatment - it was crucial to unlock the potential of IMI to benefit the ecosystem of Central Denmark, bringing together representatives from both knowledge institutions, hospitals, regulators, municipalities, patient organisations, payers, and SMEs. This was spearheaded by the Central Denmark EU Office (CDEU) that is committed to facilitating access and securing sustainability to EU programs across actors in the Central Denmark Region. This is amongst others based on the current and future needs of the health system and combining how relevant existing and future EU legislation (e.g. clinical trials, GDPR, SPCs, HTA, medical device, patient’s rights in cross boarder health care, pharma legislation, data governance act) are having an impact on life science R&D and also how it is implemented into EU programs. The vision of the stakeholders in the ecosystem is to contribute actively to the sustainability of the EU funded health research and innovation projects and critically think beyond the project period. One of the flagship institutions in the Region of Central Denmark is the Aarhus University Hospital, that together with Karolinska University Hospitals is listed as the only Scandinavian University Hospitals at global top of the Newsweek Ranging of the World’s Best University Hospitals 2020.

Health data is integral to the sustainability of the EU projects. In Central Denmark, there is a strong expertise within translating health data into health for citizens. Clinical representatives of the ecosystem have been actively involved with the construction of the Danish e-health landscape. A flagship health data research project “Cross Track”, which combines data sources from the different layers of the health sectors, secures subsequent access and deploys the data, was immediately attractive to major European players, and a natural gateway into IMI.

Thus, following a meeting in Brussels between the Central Denmark EU Office (CDEU) and EFPIA, a strong and sustained interest to look further into the different possibilities to partner with IMI was born. The possibility to enter as an associated partner in an IMI health data project appeared to be an attractive path.

New Danish associated partner in IMI: Trial Nation
The Danish national actor Trial Nation is a public-private partnership engaged in attracting clinical trials to the competent Danish university hospitals. One of its missions is pairing existing health data records with data obtained in the clinical trial setting and this is identified by Trial Nation as a major accelerator of knowledge generation.

It was an obvious next step for CDEU to recommend Trial Nation to consider entering IMI in the role of an associated partner within the industry consortia of IMI regarding the construction of European Health Observatories. 

It was a question of identifying a shared vision and a common agenda, in this particular case the vision to make Europe and Denmark even more attractive hubs for conducting clinical trials.  As CDEU has followed the entire EU legislative process and negotiations amongst member states concerning the clinical trials regulation, Trial Nation was the obvious choice as a partner to reach out to, and this recommendation was later endorsed by the board of Trial Nation. In July 2020, the consortium included Trial Nation as an Associated Partner to the Health Outcomes Observatory IMI flagship project.

How can IMI unite the innovation ecosystem across regional, national and European layers?
In the ongoing efforts to stimulate collaborative research across the different layers in the ecosystem of Central Denmark, IMI has been one of the most crucial partners to realise this ambition. IMI has created access to a wide range of European actors in biomedical innovation and research beneficial for the ecosystem of Central Denmark and moreover, it has also stimulated a stronger convergence between national and regional layers, a perfect case of European collaboration.

Connecting different layers of cross-public and private partners is beyond the pre-competitive space and therefore lies outside conflicts of interests.

The Central Denmark Region will moreover also represent Denmark as competent authority in the forthcoming European Joint Action on the European Health Data Space and has also been invited into the Joint Action as collaborating partner within the subject of increasing the capacity of National Focal Points Capabilities in the EU4Health Program to amplify national, regional and local spreading.

Maria Heilskou Pedersen

Maria Heilskou Pedersen is a Senior advisor of Health at the Central Denmark EU Office based in Brussels. She is...
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