In a first-of-its-kind
initiative, the US National Institutes of Health has partnered with 10 drug
companies and several non-profit groups to speed development of biological ways
of diagnosing and treating common chronic diseases.
The first diseases targeted
by the Accelerating Medicines Partnership are Alzheimer's, type 2 diabetes and
two autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
The partnership will invest
more than $230 million over five years on these initial projects. The data and
analyses that result will be made available to all biomedical researchers, the
"Patients and their
caregivers are relying on science to find better and faster ways to detect and
treat disease and improve their quality of life," NIH director Dr Francis
Collins said in an agency news release. "Currently, we are investing a
great deal of money and time in avenues with high failure rates, while patients
and their families wait. All sectors of the biomedical enterprise agree that
new approaches are sorely needed."
The goal is to learn more
about biological indicators of these diseases and to identify biological
targets of the diseases that are most likely to respond to new treatments,
advances in basic research are opening new windows of opportunity for
therapeutics," he said. "But this challenge is beyond the scope of
any one of us and it's time to work together in new ways to increase our
collective odds of success. We believe this partnership is an important first
step and represents the most sweeping effort to date to tackle this vital
Currently, development of a
new drug can take more than a decade, and the failure rate is more than 95%. As a result, the cost of developing a successful drug is more than $1
billion, according to the NIH.
The partnership components
The Alzheimer's component
of the partnership will include large-scale analyses of patients' brain tissue
samples. This could help identify biological factors that play important roles
in disease progression and also suggest potential new drug targets.
The type 2 diabetes branch
of the partnership will examine new and existing data from studies involving
100 000 to 150 000 patients in order to pinpoint promising treatment targets.
Efforts will include a focus on DNA regions that might play a role in the
development or progression of type 2 diabetes.
The rheumatoid arthritis
and lupus section will include collection and analysis of tissue and blood
samples from patients to identify biological changes at the cell level. This
could offer new insights into critical aspects of development of these
diseases, according to the news release.
Including other health problems
Researchers also will
attempt to pinpoint differences between rheumatoid arthritis patients who
respond to current treatments and those who do not.
If the initial efforts
targeting Alzheimer's, diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are successful,
the partnership could expand to include other health problems.
Dr Mikael Dolsten,
president of worldwide research and development at Pfizer, is enthusiastic
about the partnership. Pfizer is one of the pharmaceutical companies involved
in the new initiative.
"This type of novel
collaboration will leverage the strengths of both industry and the NIH to
ensure we expedite translation of scientific knowledge into next-generation
therapies to address the urgent needs of Alzheimer's, diabetes and [rheumatoid
arthritis] and lupus patients," Dolsten said in the news release.
Steering committees made up
of people from both public and private sectors will oversee the research plans
in each disease area. The steering committees will be managed by the Foundation
for the National Institutes of Health under the direction of an executive
committee that includes representatives from the NIH, the US Food and Drug
Administration, the drug industry and patient advocacy groups.
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