US NIH teams up with 11 companies to speed cancer immunotherapy research

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The five-year public-private research collaboration, known as the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies, will "identify, develop and validate robust biomarkers - standardized biological markers of disease and treatment response - to advance new immunotherapy treatments that harness the immune system to attack cancer", the USA leading funder of medical research said in a statement.

The current crop of immunotherapies have produced dramatic responses in certain cancer cases, which is why pharmaceutical companies have dedicated substantial investment to identify promising new treatment options for these patients.

"We have seen dramatic responses from immunotherapy, often eradicating cancer completely for some cancer patients", said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD.

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"By standardizing and validating biomarkers for immunotherapy while also developing and exploring new biomarkers, we hope to advance rapidly toward a new future of precision oncology that benefits all patients", Collins told the briefing.

This approach is expected to consistently generate data, uniform and harmonized assays to support data reproducibility, comparability of data across trials, and discovery and validation of new biomarkers for immunotherapy and related combinations. The partnership will also facilitate information sharing by all stakeholders to better coordinate clinical efforts, align investigative approaches, reduce duplication, and enable more high-quality trials to be conducted.

The pharma companies participating are: AbbVie, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene Corporation, Genentech, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Pfizer.

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The partnership will be managed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

In a Thursday press conference announcing the collaboration, Reed Cordish, who heads the Office of American Innovation, an initiative led by President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said the program represents the "type of collaboration and partnership between the private sector and government that this administration is trying to foster across many sectors".

Additional support has been provided by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association.

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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. "A systematic approach like PACT will help us to achieve success faster".

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