The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recruited the help of 11 top-quality biopharma companies as it moves towards the goal of reducing the time it takes to bring new cancer immunotherapies to patients by 50%.
The agency has announced it will put $160 million into a five-year agreement they call the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT) that will focus on identifying and developing biomarkers to help map out the development of new immuno-oncology treatments and ensure trials recruit the best patients.
Biopharma companies have committed to $55 million—$1 million each per year over the duration of the project—and include AbbVie, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Roche’s Genentech unit, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Pfizer. The FDA and trade organization PhRMA are also adding in their own expertise.
Francis Collins, director of the NIH, stated at a press conference that the thought for PACT came two years ago when the agency was figuring out how best to work with private-sector companies in the context of the Cancer Moonshot, though the foundation for the latest progress made in cancer immunotherapy has been years in the making.
Cancer immunotherapy is defined as “one of the most exciting areas for development in our lifetime,” he said, achieving dramatic responses, often eradicating cancer completely even for those with a far advanced disease that had failed all other therapies.”
One of the main objectives of PACT will be to try to determine why some patients don’t respond to this type of therapy and advance its benefits to “more people and more types of cancers, and we need to do it quickly. A systematic approach like PACT will help us to achieve success faster.”
The project will methodically test biomarkers in clinical trials to give feedback into the mechanisms of response and resistance to cancer immunotherapy and map out a set of standardized biomarkers and assays that can be tested across multiple cancer types.
It 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,” NIH stated in a statement.