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NIH Announces $230 Million "AMP" Partnership with Big Pharma to Accelerate Drug Development

On Tuesday, February 4, 2014, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the launch of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP), an innovative public-private collaboration developed with guidance from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) over the last year and a half. AMP is the first systematic investment in understanding the biology of difficult-to-treat diseases that was designed from the start by industry, academic, and government partners working together. "Currently, we are investing too much money and time in avenues that don't pan out while patients and their families wait," said NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. (image). "All sectors of the biomedical enterprise agree that this challenge is beyond the scope of any one sector, and it's time to work together in new ways to increase our collective odds of success." AMP -- cofounded by the NIH, ten leading pharmaceutical companies, and a number of nonprofit organizations -- will invest $230 million over five years to support the large-scale characterization of the underlying pathology of Alzheimer's disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. BCG was pleased to have supported AMP's initial conception, organization design, and detailed research plans for each of the diseases targeted. "Too many hoped-for drugs fail during R&D, and the reason for this is that we don't fundamentally understand the biology we're trying to modify," said Michael Ringel, J.D., Ph.D., a BCG partner and co-leader of the firm's team facilitating the partnership. "AMP is the sort of systematic effort that is needed to help us really understand these diseases, ultimately leading to better medicines." Leading scientists from academia, industry, and government came together with one mission: to design a series of large-scale human studies that will deepen understanding of how each disease unfolds and how it differs across patients. Through the consortium, each new effort will augment the new data being generated by technological revolutions in fields such as genomics and proteomics. "The exciting thing about this approach is that bringing together academic, industry, and government scientists creates a unique mixture of ideas and skills and ensures that the relay race between these sectors is as seamless as possible, so patients get new therapies faster," said Sarah Cairns-Smith, Ph.D., a BCG partner and co-leader of the team facilitating the partnership. Initial findings are expected to be available for some of these efforts within two years. By the five-year mark, the work should have produced not only a greater understanding of the diseases being studied, but also insight into how the conditions differ across individuals -- information that will lead to better understanding of drug targets in different patient groups. At the morning press conference, Dr. Collins noted that it currently takes approximately $1 billion and 14 years to bring a drug from the bench to the patient. The data generated in this new and “unprecedented” partnership will be made swiftly and freely available and will hopefully significantly increase the speed of this process, Dr. Collins suggested. The funding for the partnership is being split 50-50 between NIH and pharma., Dr. Collins noted. In response to a question, Dr. Collins said that the immune disease studies (rheumatoid arthritis and lupus) will take advantage of single-cel techniques to gain precise insight into the molecular underpinnings of these diseases. For Alzheimer’s, the partners will seek to assemble a complete set of relevant biomarkers that can be used as targets and as information on the pathology of the disease. With regard to type 2 diabetes, he said that the partners would be creating a knowledge portal that would make the vast amount of information on this disease both accessible and understandable, and hopefully, actionable. In addition to Dr. Collins and an executive from Pfizer, a woman afflicted with lupus also spoke at the press conference and commented on how significant this new partnership is to her hope for her future, and to the future hopes of all those afflicted by the diseases the partners will focus on first. Following are the ten pharmaceutical companies that participated in establishing AMP: AbbVie, Biogen Idec, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly and Company, Merck & Co., Pfizer, Sanofi, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company. The announcement was widely covered in the popular media. Please also refer to the NIH press release (link below) for additional information. [BCG press release] [NIH press release] [Wall Street Journal article] [Washington Post article] [NBC News article] [Business Week article] [Genetic Engineering News article]