Friday, May 27, 2011

TRAIN Group at Center of New NIH Collaborative Effort

Kristin Schneeman, Program Director, FasterCures

aims to expedite cures by stimulating innovative collaborations across all sectors. We recognize that a collective approach is needed to successfully address the barriers to innovation. That is why we were fascinated to note this week the announcement that NIH has just signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) to move promising therapies for rare blood cancers into clinical proof-of-concept studies. This is an excellent example of collaboration that we’d like to see more of in the future.

While NIH has engaged in CRADAs for many years to make government facilities, intellectual property, and expertise available to further the development of marketable products, this one caught our attention because of the involvement of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a major funder of blood cancer research. The press release announcing the agreement explicitly noted the role that philanthropic and patient organizations have in the drug discovery process. Also engaged in the collaboration is the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The agreement is notable to us also because NIH is viewing it as a “Learning Collaborative,” the goal of which is “to bridge the gap in time and resources that often exists between basic research and human testing of potential new treatments.” “We plan to learn more about and improve the drug development process for all diseases,” says Chris Austin, director of NIH’s Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program, which is spearheading this effort.

FasterCures, through our TRAIN program, has long been a proponent of the important role that patient-driven philanthropic organizations can play in funding innovative approaches to medical research and in helping move promising discoveries across the translational “valley of death” toward new treatments. They bring not just risk capital but also the voice and priorities of patients into the research process.

This agreement is part of a heartening trend (no pun intended) at NIH to play a more active role in bridging the gap between the many promising discoveries it funds and the point at which biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies are willing to invest in expensive late-stage clinical research. We are pleased to see that Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has a seat at the table in this effort, and we hope to see more collaborations of this kind in the near future. We look forward to learning along with The Learning Collaborative about how government, academia, nonprofits, and ultimately industry can work more efficiently and effectively to get badly needed new treatments to patients.

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