NIH Hooks Up With 11 Top Biopharmas for $215 Million Cancer Moonshot Deal

NIH Hooks Up With 11 Top Biopharmas for $215 Million Cancer Moonshot Deal October 13, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

WASHINGTON – Some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry have joined forces with the National Institutes of Health to support the cancer Moonshot goal of exploring relevant biomarkers that will accelerate the development of immunotherapies for cancer patients.

Eleven biopharmaceutical companies and the NIH combined forces on a five-year $215 million public-private research collaboration called PACT—the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies. The NIH will provide the bulk of the funding at $160 million over five years. The partnering companies will each kick in $1 million annually for each of the five years, totaling $55 million at the end of the partnership.

The leading cancer-fighting companies that have signed onto PACT include:

1. AbbVie
2. Amgen
3. Boehringer Ingelheim
4. Bristol-Myers Squibb
5. Celgene Corporation
6. Genentech
7. Gilead Sciences
8. GlaxoSmithKline
9. Janssen Pharmaceutical
10. Novartis
11. Pfizer

The NIH added that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) is also providing additional support. Notably absent from the alliance is New York-based Merck . The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will serve in an advisory role.

NIH Director Francis S. Collins said the medical community has seen “dramatic responses” from immunotherapy, which in some cases as eradicated cancer in some patients.

“We need to bring that kind of success—and hope—for more people and more types of cancers, and we need to do it quickly. A systematic approach like PACT will help us to achieve success faster,” Collins said in a statement.

Working in concert, the 11 companies will conduct systematic and uniform clinical testing of biomarkers to gain a better understanding of what kind of therapies will work best in targeting cancer tumors. The NIH said research conducted under the PACT umbrella will integrate immune and other related oncology biomarkers into clinical trials by defining a set of standardized biomarkers to be tested across a variety of studies. The NIH said this approach “will allow for consistent generation of data, uniform and harmonized assays to support data reproducibility, comparability of data across trials, and discovery and validation of new biomarkers for immunotherapy and related combinations.”

Having a strong grasp on biomarkers can reduce the time it takes to develop drugs, as well as reduce the cost of drug discovery by increasing endpoint data.

Maria C. Freire, president and executive director of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), which is managing PACT, said that such a challenging goal cannot be conducted by one company and requires a team effort. The collaborative effort supports the cancer Moonshot initiative launched by former Vice President Joe Biden. The initiative is aimed at accelerating research and development of innovative cancer treatments. Biden became a staunch supporter of the effort following the death of his son to brain cancer.

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