NEWS: Wall Street Journal: Drug Companies Join NIH in Study of Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus

February 4, 2014

Upton Hails Landmark Collaboration Between NIH and Drug Companies In Race to Discover Better Cures

UPTON: “The search for cures must be an all-hands-on-deck effort. This landmark effort exemplifies the very best of a public-private collaboration, and we in Congress also want to do what we can in the name of breakthrough research.” 

The Wall Street Journal reports “Ten big drug companies that have spent billions racing one another to find breakthroughs on diseases like Alzheimer's have formed an unusual pact to cooperate on a government-backed effort to accelerate the discovery of new medicines. … By pooling their brightest minds and best lab discoveries they hope to put together a research system that can decipher the diseases in ways each hasn't been able to on its own.” The Accelerating Medicines Partnership seeks to make discoveries regarding Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus with the hope that they will ultimately find new drugs, better treatments, and more cures for these diseases.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commented, “The search for cures must be an all-hands-on-deck effort. This landmark effort exemplifies the very best of a public-private collaboration, and we in Congress also want to do what we can in the name of breakthrough research. Health care is first and foremost about providing the highest quality of care for patients, and this ultimately means greater innovation and more medical breakthroughs from our nation’s top minds. I applaud the leadership and initiative of all those involved in the Accelerating Medicines Partnership and am hopeful that their work will lead to more cures and treatments for patients and more peace of mind for families affected by those diseases.”

February 3, 2014

Drug Companies Join NIH in Study of Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus

Ten big drug companies that have spent billions racing one another to find breakthroughs on diseases like Alzheimer's have formed an unusual pact to cooperate on a government-backed effort to accelerate the discovery of new medicines.

Under a five-year collaboration to be announced on Tuesday, the companies and the National Institutes of Health have agreed to share scientists, tissue and blood samples, and data. They aim to decipher the biology behind Alzheimer's, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and to thereby identify targets for new drugs.

The price tag, roughly $230 million, is relatively small: The global drug industry spends about $135 billion a year on research and development. But the collaborators seek something money can't buy.

By pooling their brightest minds and best lab discoveries they hope to put together a research system that can decipher the diseases in ways each hasn't been able to on its own.

Diseases like Alzheimer's and diabetes "are looming tsunamis," says Elias Zerhouni, research-and-development chief of Sanofi SA, a participant. Deciphering them "could not be done by any single organization. Even the NIH, with all of its might, doesn't have all of the solutions inside it. And no one company can do it."

The pact is unusual because drug companies are traditionally secretive about their science, rushing to acquire patents to protect rights to potential future drugs. The new agreement bars participants from using any discovery for their own drug research until the project makes data public on that discovery.

"The moment the project results are out," says David Wholley, director of research partnerships of the Foundation for the NIH, "all-out competition resumes to develop the winning drug. And that's what the patients want."

Taking a page from the "open-source" movement that has swept the software world, the group will share all findings with the public, for anyone to use freely to conduct their own experiments.

The alliance involves rivals such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline PLC. A number of foundations, including the American Diabetes Association and the Alzheimer's Association, have agreed to back the project and to help recruit patients for trials

Most of today's drug-development programs fail, often in the expensive clinical-trial phases in which a company tests a drug on patients. Frequently, the failure happens because the company has an imperfect understanding of the disease at an early research stage before it begins looking for a potential drug.

The new pact involves that early stage. Under the plan, dubbed the Accelerating Medicines Partnership, the collaborators hope to gain a better understanding of how each disease works, and then use that knowledge to find molecules, or "targets," that play important roles in the courses that each disease can take and could be attacked with potential drugs.

The plan also seeks to create methods to better measure how a disease is progressing and is responding to treatment. Getting more targets right early on should reduce costly failures later.

"A drug company really wants to know where it should put its next billion-dollar bet in a new area of therapeutics," says NIH Director Francis Collins, who spearheaded the effort and is well known for having led the federal human-genome project.

The payoffs could be better medicines for lucrative markets. The market in 2018 could be about $60 billion for diabetes treatments and $4.6 billion for Alzheimer's drugs, says EvaluatePharma, an industry-analysis firm. Analysts say a more-effective Alzheimer's drug could more than double the market.

There are already approved drugs for the four ailments, but Alzheimer's lacks one that can slow its memory-robbing march, and all of the diseases lack cures. …

Read the complete story online here.

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