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Drug companies team up with NIH to develop new treatments

Ten rival pharmaceutical companies have joined forces with the National Institutes of Health in a new initiative to research Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The unlikely pact between the competing firms — which includes big names like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — will allow them to pool their resources and accelerate the discovery of new treatments for the diseases.

The five-year-long, $230 million collaboration, called the Accelerating Medicines Partnership, brings the companies and the NIH together with a variety of non-profit organizations who will help fund the research. NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins believes the partnership serves as a key example of how the biomedical community must come together in order to develop better treatments.

“Currently, we are investing a great deal of money and time in avenues with high failure rates, while patients and their families wait. All sectors of the biomedical enterprise agree that new approaches are sorely needed,” Dr. Francis said in a statement. “But this challenge is beyond the scope of any one of us and it’s time to work together in new ways to increase our collective odds of success. We believe this partnership is an important first step and represents the most sweeping effort to date to tackle this vital issue.”

A groundbreaking feature of the initiative is that all of the information gleaned from the research will be made available to the public. This will allow anyone to use the data for their own experiments. David Wholley, director of research partnerships of the Foundation for the NIH, says the game will change once the findings are released:

“The moment the project results are out,” Wholley says, “all-out competition resumes to develop the winning drug. And that’s what the patients want.”