Monday, August 13, 2012

Calling all Medical Research Innovators

Summer’s almost over and everyone at FasterCures is gearing up for an exciting Fall. We hope you’ve marked your calendars to join us at the fourth annual Partnering for Cures meeting November 28-30 in New York City. It will be here before we know it and amazing panels and speakers are starting to populate the program. 

With less than one month left to apply for one of the 30 innovator presentation slots, we need your applications! If your organization is engaged in an innovative, cross-sector collaboration aimed at reducing the time and cost of getting new medical solutions from discovery to patients, we want to hear from you!

Who can apply? Partnerships that include representatives from two or more of the following sectors – nonprofit foundations, pharmaceutical/biotechnology companies, research institutes, universities, government agencies, investors, and private philanthropists. Collaborations should be established, not merely proposed.

This year we’re particularly (though not exclusively) interested in hearing from partnerships focused on:
  1. Translation/commercialization of early stage discoveries
  2. Data sharing
  3. Novel research tool development
  4. Asset repurposing
  5. Innovative financial models
Each 25 minute presentation will provide an opportunity to engage potential investors, partners, and/or collaborators in moving your existing initiative forward or amplifying its impact. External advisors will help us review applications and develop the Innovator Presentation program agenda.

To apply to be an Innovator Presenter and to be sure you meet the criteria, visit:

Remember to get your application in by September 10th and we’ll see you in November!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Outside In: NIH Opens Clinical Center to Extramural Researchers

Researchers from academia, nonprofits, and other institutions not within the National Institutes of Health can now access the world-class facilities at the NIH Clinical Center.

Scientists interested in pursuing access to specific Clinical Center resources – including an impressive metabolic unit, pharmaceutical development capabilities, and advanced research-related radiology imaging services – can now explore opportunities and pathways for collaboration with the Center.

Until now, the Clinical Center —NIH’s crown jewel – has been exclusively available to the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP).  But with a new grant mechanism, a website that provides information on opportunities and pathways for collaboration with the Center, and a toolkit for researchers interested in pursuing access to specific hospital resources, the doors (and medical possibilities) are opening up.

In 2008, FasterCures convened a task force chaired by Nobel Laureate Dr. David Baltimore, which called for the IRP to adopt a new mission that was outcomes-focused, capable of responding quickly to new opportunities, and fully utilized its world-class research hospital and other infrastructure (which at the time rarely reached 60% occupancy). Among the task force’s key recommendations  was that the NIH create streamlined mechanisms by which extramural researchers and industry could more fully use the Clinical Center for projects in collaboration with the IRP.

A few years later, in 2010, FasterCures and 86 other patient organizations sent a letter urging the NIH’s Scientific Management Review Board to open up the Clinical Center facilities to external researchers.

With some of the most advanced medical technologies in the world, the Clinical Center has a distinguished history of discovery. We are delighted to see NIH continue with this important initiative and we encourage researchers to take them up on their offer and make use of the Center’s incredible resources. After all – no one can do this alone.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sequestration will be devastating to the cure enterprise

By Margaret Anderson
Executive Director, FasterCures

For months, the defense industry has taken the Hill and media outlets by storm detailing the potentially catastrophic impact “sequestration” will have on national security, defense jobs, and our economy. The “S” word stands for automatic spending cuts that will take into effect if Congress does not reach a budget agreement to reduce the deficit by the end of the year.

Members of Congress have expressed concern over the potential cuts to defense programs, and even called for carve outs to protect the Pentagon funding. There has been little mention, however, of the impact sequestration would have on nondefense programs, such as medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or education, which are also subject to the same across-the-board cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Last week, we learned a little more about the impact of the sequester’s $1.2 trillion cuts on nondefense programs because of a report released by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). The report details the “destructive impacts on the whole array of Federal activities that promote and protect the middle class in this country – everything from education to job training, medical research, child care, worker safety, food safety, national parks, border security and safe air travel." The report even indicates that the “economic effects of cuts to nondefense programs could be worse than cuts to Pentagon spending.”

There is chilling evidence of what we can expect to happen to medical research at NIH should sequestration take place:
  • NIH would issue about 700 fewer grants to medical researchers in Fiscal Year 2013, which means 700 fewer opportunities to find medical treatments and cures;
  • The total cut to NIH would be $2.4 billion;
  • The National Cancer Institute alone would be cut by $396 million;
  • The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences would lose nearly $45 million; and
  • All 50 states would be expected to suffer from an across-the-board cut.
The report also illustrates how cuts to NIH will result in not only job loss (NIH currently supports approximately 432,000 nationwide), but also a reduction in medical innovation.

At FasterCures, we are deeply concerned by these numbers and urge members of Congress to identify a solution to sequestration before we see a decline in medical research. The ripple effects will be felt far and wide – in every university, every medical research setting, and every household that’s been struck by disease.

We know today that investments in scientific research, particularly in bioscience, not only save and improve lives, but also offer the greatest potential returns and serve as the best economic stimulus any nation can make. Nations that lead the world in bioscience will be the global leaders of the 21st century. No field has greater potential to improve health, create jobs, and stimulate the economy; and no field provides greater returns on investment. 

Important references:

Interested in engaging with a medical venture philanthropy but not sure where to start? Try here

Forward-thinking philanthropic funders of disease research can play an absolutely critical role in stimulating medical progress, particularly in under-resourced areas, and helping to bridge the Valley of Death. Free of external pressures, nonprofit foundations are ideally positioned to make relatively high-risk investments that could significantly move a field of research forward and increase the likelihood that other parties also will invest.

Today FasterCures launched a first-of-its-kind resource designed to help potential collaborators better understand the landscape of nonprofit disease research foundations and engage in meaningful partnerships with them. The Research Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN) Inventory is a free, Web-based index that catalogues the operational and partnering practices of over 50 leading nonprofits that find and fund cutting-edge medical research.

As the medical research community continues to explore new business models, we can all learn from the approaches these organizations have taken to speed innovation. Our goal is to amplify what they’ve done, share what they’ve learned, and help those interested in engaging them determine how best to connect.  The Inventory  succinctly provides information crucial to understanding and working with over 50 of the most impactful foundations in this space.

With downloadable profiles for every organization that participates in FasterCures’ TRAIN initiative, the Inventory uses a common set of metrics to outline and compare each organization’s research portfolio, collaboration efforts, financials, and more. It also highlights the great medical advances these organizations have fostered over the years, often in collaboration with partners from other sectors.

For example, did you know . . .
  • Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), through a partnership with Onyx Pharmaceuticals, provided the clinical trial support and resources necessary to develop the first new treatment for multiple myeloma in five years, Kyprolis. Trials conducted through MMRF’s Research Consortium are opened an average of 60 percent faster than the industry average.
  • The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) has granted more than $51 million to fund more than 370 Alzheimer’s drug discovery programs and clinical trials in academic centers and biotechs in 18 countries.
  • A collaboration between the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) and Vertex Pharmaceuticals brought about the cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco, which received FDA approval in January 2012. CFF provided funding, information about the patient population, and helped recruit patients for clinical trials.
  • Through a partnership between the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, the Center’s clinical trials program is currently running more than 50 active clinical trials for advanced and rare cancers.
  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) for Parkinson’s Research engaged 3,000 volunteers across 20 countries in studies to speed development of LRRK-2 related therapies for Parkinson’s disease. 
  • Thanks to Autism Speaks’ advocacy efforts, 29 states have enacted autism insurance reform laws.
These are just a few examples of model practices among our TRAIN groups. To learn more about them and the other organizations in the network, check out our inventory – and pass it on!