NIH, Patients and Industry Ramp Up to AMP-lify Innovation

Speakers at Wednesday’s BIO 2014 Super Session – AMP-lifying Innovation: NIH, Patient Organizations & Leading Biopharma Firms Mobilize to Tackle Tough Diseases – discussed the new Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) program, which is aimed at transforming the current model for developing new treatments by jointly identifying and validating promising biological targets of disease.

AMP is a new venture among the NIH, several non-profit organizations and 10 biopharmaceutical companies focused on Alzheimer’s disease; type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disorders; and lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

BIO’s Senior Vice President of Science Policy Kay Holcombe opened the session by throwing down the gauntlet for AMP and the broader industry by comparing the challenge to the space race in the sixties stating, “The goal to cure 7,000 diseases is the moonshot of the 21st century.”

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, set expectations by pointing out that the program is four months old and highlighted the uniqueness of the program, saying that ‘we haven’t tried anything like this before.’

Dr. Collins presented data showing the increase in failure rates in late stages of clinical trials. He suggested prioritizing the ability to identify appropriate targets using new human models and bringing stakeholders together to address the complexities of drug development to overcome the challenge of high failure rates in Phase II and Phase III.  Three pilots are currently being conducted for each disease area addressed through AMP, and Dr. Collins also pointed out that schizophrenia was identified as the fourth priority area and may be a focus after the first phase of the program begins to conclude at the end of August.

Jan Lundberg, PhD, Executive Vice President, Science and Technology, and President, Lilly Research Laboratories, Eli Lilly and Company, echoed Dr. Collins’ sentiments on the importance of stakeholders coming together, adding that the challenge is ‘too daunting for a single company.’ He further emphasized the importance of tailoring therapies to patients’ needs, and prioritized the need to identify the presence of amyloid and tau proteins in living brains since currently they can only be identified during an autopsy.

Dr. Collins and Dr. Lundberg both urged attendees to focus on patients and their unique needs, and the final speaker – Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative President and CEO Meryl Comer – represented the perspective of patients and their caregivers. As a caregiver to her husband and mother, Comer is living with the challenges of dealing with disease and calls herself ‘a prisoner of Alzheimer’s.’ She also spoke on behalf of all baby boomers saying, “We are transformational as a generation when we put our heads together, the last time we did this we cured polio.” Comer urged attendees to support the program in every way saying, “I do not want what happened to me to happen to you – this has to work.”

Eli Lilly and Company sponsored this Super Session. The BIO International Convention closes tomorrow in San Diego, Calif.

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