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NIH forges $230m research alliance with pharma

Brings 10 pharma companies together to speed up research in Alzheimer’s, diabetes and arthritis
National Institutes of Health NIH building

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has created a public private partnership with pharma companies and non-profit organisations designed to speed up research into new drug targets.

The Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) - described by the NIH as "unprecedented" - aims to bring scientists from the public sector and private industry together to find and validate new targets for diagnostic and drug development, and will focus initially on three projects: Alzheimer's disease, type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis/lupus erythematosus.

The approach ties in with the growing recognition that the pharma industry needs to revitalise its research culture and adopt an 'open innovation' approach that looks beyond the walls of their in-house R&D departments.

Many companies have paid lip service to the concept, stepping up efforts to forge links with academic researchers while still keeping the data generated - and intellectual property rights to discoveries - closely guarded. The groundbreaking element of the NIH partnership is that data and analyses generated by the projects will be publicly disseminated to the biomedical community.

"It's time to work together in new ways to increase our collective odds of success," commented NIH director Francis Collins. Despite advances in basic research that are generating new drug targets "this challenge is beyond the scope of any one of us," he added.

The NIH noted that developing a drug from early discovery through approval currently takes well over a decade and has a failure rate of more than 95 per cent, with each success carrying a price tag of $1bn or more.

The AMP pilot programmes will last for three to five years and - if the first three are successful - could be extended to include additional disease areas, according to the NIH, which said it spent two years thrashing out the details of the alliance with the help of Boston Consulting Group.

Steering committees for each of the three disease areas, with representation from all partners, will meet regularly to define research agendas, develop project plans, and review ongoing progress and milestones.

The projects pharma partners are Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Takeda, AbbVie, Biogen Idec, Lilly, Merck & Co and Pfizer.

Pfizer's president of worldwide R&D, Mikael Dolsten, said the approach "rallies scientific key players of the innovation ecosystem in a more unified way to address one of the key challenges to biopharma drug discovery and development."

Not all major pharma companies have elected to join the partnership, however. Amgen said it supported the effort but declined to participate because the AMP's projects overlap with its in-house efforts, according to a Wall Street Journal report, while Roche and AstraZeneca are both adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

Article by
Phil Taylor

5th February 2014

From: Research

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