NIH partners with 11 drugmakers to accelerate development of cancer immunotherapies

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Thursday announced a partnership with 11 drugmakers, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis, Pfizer and Roche's Genentech unit, to speed the development of new immunotherapy treatments for cancer. The five-year, $215-million Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT) will initially seek to identify, develop and validate "robust biomarkers" to advance the development of new immunotherapies. Eric Hargan, acting Health and Human Services Secretary, remarked "this new public-private partnership is a significant step forward in the battle against cancer and a real boost to the potential of immunotherapy."

Other drugmakers participating in the collaboration include AbbVie, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Celgene, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit. Each company will provide up to $1 million per year of the five-year deal through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, while the NIH anticipates contributing $160 million over the course of the partnership, pending availability of funds. Additional support has also been provided by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA). 

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According to the NIH, the partnership will also aim to integrate immune and other related oncology biomarkers into clinical trials by defining a set of standardised biomarkers for testing across a number of studies. Further, the agency said PACT will facilitate information sharing among stakeholders to "better coordinate clinical efforts, align investigative approaches, reduce duplication and enable more high-quality trials to be conducted."

NIH Director Francis Collins remarked "we have seen dramatic responses from immunotherapy, often eradicating cancer completely for some cancer patients." However, he said "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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