Thursday, April 8, 2010

Infusing Life into the Valley of Death

Medical research leaders and patient advocates yesterday participated in a forum that spotlighted the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. Speakers and participants were eager to discuss CAN and its potential to transform the medical research enterprise by supporting efforts specifically designed to bridge a gap in the therapeutic development pipeline between basic and clinical research.

Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) introduced CAN to bridge this gap, often referred to as the “Valley of Death,” where research lies dormant and ideas come to a halt because the necessary next steps to take basic research discoveries and turn it into a safe and effective therapy are not taken. The forum was convened by Parkinson’s Action Network and FasterCures.

According to Amy Rick, CEO of PAN, “the business of taking a discovery and pursuing it for its full therapeutic potential is dramatically different than the business of basic research.” It includes considerations like FDA, legal issues, intellectual property, and the timing structure and milestones are different, as well. Appropriate incentives need to be in place to fill the valley of death.

CAN, as authorized, will be established within the Office of the Director of National Institutes of Health (NIH) and would award grants through NIH to biotech companies, universities, and patient advocacy groups. John Schall, deputy CEO of PAN, provided details of this provision, including:

  • CAN is designed to accelerate the development of high need cures, including through the development of medical products and behavioral therapies. “Medical product” in this context means a drug, device, biological product, or any combination of the three.
  • A diverse, 24-person board will be convened to advise the Director of the NIH on the conduct of the activities of the CAN. This board will represent multiple sectors including at least four individuals from the venture capital community and at least eight patient advocates.
  • CAN is subject to the appropriation of funds.

John Myers, Senior Health and Science Policy Adviser to Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), encouraged patient advocacy groups to stay involved throughout the appropriations process already underway and build on the momentum of the health reform law, to ensure the potential of the CAN provision can be realized. Learn about how you can support this effort.

The forum, moderated by Margaret Anderson, Executive Director of FasterCures, elevated questions and discussion items that will likely continue as the process to implement the new health reform law unfolds.

This conversation will continue online at FasterCures TRAIN Central Station. Join the discussion.

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