Press release

Thursday, 31 July, 2014

New IMI Project to Avoid Disabilities in Elderly People 

  • Joint research group of academia and pharmaceutical industry targets  physical frailty and sarcopenia (PF&S), a major unmet medical need in ageing societies

  • SPRINTT (Sarcopenia and Physical fRailty IN older people: multi-componenT Treatment strategies)

Brussels, 31 July 2014 – The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) has launched a project called SPRINTT that will investigate new ways to understand and treat physical frailty and sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and strength) which cause mobility disability in elderly people. The kick-off meeting was held at the Sanofi R&D campus in Chilly-Mazarin (France) with the participation of several Academics led by Professor Roberto Bernabei (Catholic University, Rome). The SPRINTT project, under the umbrella of the IMI is equally funded by the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). The budget for this important project amounts to more than 48 million Euros.

Physical frailty and sarcopenia (PF&S) represent a public health priority. No approved medicines are available to treat these syndromes related to old age. The identification of a treatment for PF&S would be of paramount importance to delay or prevent the ultimate consequence of this geriatric condition, i.e. mobility disability. The ability to ambulate without assistance is crucial for independent living and it is often the first ability to be lost in the process leading to disability. Elderly people who have impaired walking function need more assistance and are more likely to be placed into nursing homes, have a higher risk of morbidity, mortality and hospitalization, and experience a reduced quality of life.

The SPRINTT project has two major objectives. First, it will aim at providing a clear, objective, scientifically sound, and clinically relevant operational definition of PF&S, in order to allow the identification of older individuals affected by this condition. Second, SPRINTT will test the effectiveness of a multicomponent intervention (based on physical activity, nutritional counseling, and innovative technologies) vs. a health educational program for the prevention of mobility disability in a clinical trial to be conducted in community-dwelling older persons with PF&S. This phase III randomized controlled trial will involve nearly 1500 patients from 12 European countries, undergoing a clinical follow-up of two years. Applied methodologies and clinical results will be presented to the European Medicines Agency for regulatory advice.

IMI Executive Director Michel Goldman said:

“The new IMI project SPRINTT underlines the importance of cooperation between large pharmaceutical companies, universities, and research institutes, as well as small and medium sized enterprises. Only by working together can the different players in the healthcare sector lay the foundations for solutions for sarcopenia and physical frailty, two major unmet health needs that represent significant challenges for our ageing societies.”

The ultimate goals of SPRINTT are to offer efficient treatment options to physically frail, sarcopenic older persons and to improve their quality of life. This result will directly contribute to the long-term sustainability and efficiency of health- and social-care systems.

The five-year project is the result of a rich collaboration between sixteen major research institutions in the geriatric field across Europe, small medium size companies (SMEs) and five EFPIA members: Sanofi (lead), GSK, Novartis, Servier and Eli Lilly.

Information regarding the SPRINTT project may be found at

About physical frailty and sarcopenia

  • Frailty is a long-established clinical expression that implies concern about an elderly person’s vulnerability and outlook. By definition, frailty is a state of increased vulnerability to stressor events, which increases the risk of adverse outcomes, including falls, delirium, disability and death. Frailty has both physical and cognitive components, and sarcopenia is considered to be a primary contributor to the physical aspect (i.e., ‘physical frailty’). There are several instruments that have been validated to identify frail older subjects, but a universally accepted diagnostic tool is still lacking.
  • Sarcopenia has been defined as the progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength, and power occurring in older subjects, and, as noted, is regarded as a key component of frailty. Further study is necessary, but in elderly individuals the loss of muscle strength and power may be more important than a decline in muscle mass.

About IMI

The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is working to improve health by speeding up the development of, and patient access to, innovative medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need. It does this by facilitating collaboration between the key players involved in healthcare research, including universities, the pharmaceutical and other industries, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), patient organisations, and medicines regulators.

IMI is a partnership between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry, represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). IMI has a budget of €3.3 billion for the period 2014-2024. Half of this comes from the EU. The other half comes from large companies, mostly from the pharmaceutical sector; these do not receive any EU funding, but contribute to the projects ‘in kind’, for example by donating their researchers’ time or providing access to research facilities or resources.

More info on IMI:

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The Sprintt project budget is provided by EFPIA and the European Commission, each covering half of it

About EFPIA member companies

Sanofi, GSK, Novartis, Servier, Eli Lilly


Universities, research organisations, public bodies and non-profit groups

  • Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy
  • Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire de Toulouse, France
  • Univerzita Karlova v Praze, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Roessingh Research and Development BV, Enschede, the Netherlands
  • Helsingin yliopisto (University of Helsinki), Helsinki, Finland
  • Servicia Madrileno de Salud, Madrid, Spain
  • Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France
  • Università degli Studi di Firenze, Firenze, Italy
  • Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany
  • Uniwersytet Jagiellonski, Krakovia, Poland
  • Istituto Nazionale Di Riposo e Cura Per Anziani-INRCA, Ancona, Italy
  • University Medical Center Göttingen, Germany

Small Medium Size companies (SMEs)

  • Caretek, Torino, Italy
  • EU-Open S.R.L, Vernella, Italy
  • Niche Science &Technology Ltd, London, United Kingdom


Project coordinator

Name: Susanna Del-Signore

Organisation: sanofi R&D

Tel.: +33 (6) 33 24 47 80

Managing entity

Name: Roberto Bernabei

Organisation: Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Tel.: +39 06 3015 4859


Press contact

Name: Antonio Cherubini

Organisation: INRCA

Tel.: +39 071 8003284