Deals, Research Institutes

NIH allies with 11 top cancer biopharma players in $215M drive to explore biomarkers, speed R&D

A who’s who of cancer drug R&D companies have banded together to help fund a $215 million drive at the NIH to explore relevant biomarkers that can help focus immunotherapies on the right patient population while cutting the amount of time it takes to drive better studies through the clinic.

The NIH plans to put up the bulk of the money itself, up to $160 million — depending on its budget — while each of the biopharma companies involved put up $1 million each for 5 years for another $55 million.

The public-private partnership includes the following companies (with the notable absence of Merck):

AbbVie, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene Corporation, Genentech, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research and Pfizer.

Francis Collins

Not only does it include key players already at or near the market with new therapies, it also involves GlaxoSmithKline, which has been stepping up its focus on oncology after Emma Walmsley’s arrival in the CEO suite.

In addition, the industry trade group PhRMA is playing a role in the R&D alliance as well.

The group plans to take a more systematic approach to biomarkers, finding out which work best for a broad range of potential indications while searching for new ones that can help drive fresh advances in targeting the right patient populations. And it wants a more standardized approach to the biomarker work that can be shared with the participants.

“We have seen dramatic responses from immunotherapy, often eradicating cancer completely for some cancer patients,” said NIH director Francis Collins  “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.”



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