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Three Drug Makers Partner with NIH to Expand Therapies

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National Institutes of Health and three pharmaceutical manufacturers will collaborate on research to find new treatments for diseases from currently approved drugs. Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Eli Lilly and Company will make at least 20 of their existing compounds available for this research to NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

The program, called Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules, will focus on drugs already cleared and in the therapeutic pipeline, which have traditionally been difficult for researchers outside the companies owning the compounds to access. The studies planned in this pilot phase of the program will provide researchers with access to some 20 compounds and related data from the companies to test for their effectiveness against a variety of diseases and conditions.

According to NCATS, recent research has identified causes of more than 4,500 diseases, but found treatments for only about 250 of them. In the next (2013) fiscal year, beginning on 1 October, NCATS will make provide up to $20 million to fund two- to three-year research grants. Under these grants, researchers will first conduct preclinical, validation, and clinical feasibility studies, and later on, proof-of-concept clinical trials to test if the compounds are effective against unexplored disease targets.

As part of the pilot program, NIH has devised what it calls template agreements to streamline the legal and administrative process for partnering across multiple organizations. The agreements include processes for handling intellectual property used in or developed through the program. Industry partners will retain the ownership of their compounds, while academic research partners will own any intellectual property they discover through the research project with the right to publish the results of their work.

NIH has issued a notice of intent to publish a request for applications for grants in this program. A request for information from interested parties has also been issued, with a due date for responses of 1 June.

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