The National Institutes of Health has launched a five-year, $215 million public-private partnership with 11 biopharmaceutical vendors to accelerate development of new immunotherapy treatments in support of the Cancer Moonshot initiative.

The Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT), which will be managed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) with the Food and Drug Administration serving in an advisory role, will initially focus on efforts to identify, develop and validate biomarkers to better understand how immunotherapies work in some patients while predicting their response to treatment.

“We have seen dramatic responses from immunotherapy, often eradicating cancer completely for some cancer patients,” said Francis Collins, MD, director of NIH. “We need to bring that kind of success—and hope—for 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 bulk of the funding for PACT will be contributed to the effort by NIH—$160 million over the five years of the partnership—while the 11 companies will contribute as much as $1 million per year for five years through the FNIH for a total private sector contribution of $55 million.

The vendors participating in PACT include: AbbVie, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co. KG, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene Corp., Genentech, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Pfizer. In addition, support has been provided by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association.

“We support PACT because collaboration is an important step that can lead to new breakthroughs and possibly even a chance for cure,” said Edith Perez, MD, vice president and head of BioOncology Medical Affairs at Genentech, as well as director of the Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer Translational Genomics Program. “When industry, academia and government work together to share scientific knowledge and new technologies, we have a chance to make significant strides in the fight against cancer and to ultimately help more people.”

The overarching goal of the Cancer Moonshot initiative is to achieve a decade’s worth of progress against the disease in just five years. Likewise, PACT is attempting to bring immunotherapy success to more patients in half the time.

Also See: Data sharing critical to success of Cancer Moonshot

“PACT will facilitate systematic and uniform clinical testing of biomarkers to advance our understanding of the mechanisms of response and resistance to cancer therapy,” the NIH announcement notes. “The research conducted under the partnership will also integrate immune and other related oncology biomarkers into clinical trials by defining a set of standardized biomarkers to be tested across a variety of studies.”

In a separate but related award, NIH’s National Cancer Institute recently awarded $53.6 million in funding over five years to support four Cancer Immune Monitoring and Analysis Centers—Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Precision Immunology Institute and the Tisch Cancer Institute at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Stanford Cancer Institute and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center—as well as a Cancer Immunologic Data Commons at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“The four CIMACs and one CIDC will form a network of laboratory centers that will support both adult and pediatric immunotherapy trials,” according to NIH. “Researchers at the CIMACs will perform deep tumor and immune profiling. The resulting data will be collected in the CIDC database for exploration of biomarkers of immune response. This network will also provide a foundation for the core laboratory, assay development and database functions required by PACT.”

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