WASHINGTON — The National Institutes of Health announced a first-of-its-kind partnership Tuesday with pharmaceutical companies and patient advocacy groups to collaborate on research aimed at treatments for Alzheimer's, Type 2 diabetes and autoimmune diseases.
The pilot projects, which will last three to five years, will involve an investment of more than $230 million over five years from industry and patient advocacy groups, and is unique because it will not only involve the sharing of scientists but also of data, blood samples and tissue specimens.
NIH director Francis Collins said researchers involved in drug development are investing a great deal of money and time in projects and areas of research that have high rates of failure.
"We are going to try to increase the odds of picking the right targets to go after for the next generation of drug development," he said. In other words, Collins said, the partnership aims to "avoid wasting precious time and money-chasing duds."
While NIH has undertaken a number of collaborations with private industry in recent years, the effort announced Tuesday — called the Accelerating Medicines Partnership, or AMP — is the most ambitious.
The participants include many of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world — Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lily, Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi and Takeda — as well as a few smaller biotech companies. The companies, which have long resisted calls to share detailed data and samples from experiments, have agreed to make data generated from this partnership publicly available. Scientific leaders have complained that the reluctance of the drug industry to allow their scientists to share their data has slowed the pace of research.
But the partnership is about much more than just data. Scientists working on new drugs for the most part depend on trial and error, making guesses about what could work as a treatment and then testing their hypotheses.
AMP takes a more comprehensive approach, bringing scientists from industry and government together to look at the possibilities and to prioritize the most promising targets for treatments.