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U.S. venture gathers drugmakers to take on major diseases

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Eli Lilly and Co., Pfizer Inc. and eight other large drugmakers will partner with the U.S. government in a $230 million effort to identify new approaches to treat Alzheimer’s, diabetes, lupus and arthritis.

Data generated from the work will be made public for other scientists to use, a move that the U.S. National Institutes of Health called groundbreaking. The targeted diseases are some of the most prevalent conditions among Americans, costing the nation billions of dollars in treatment and lost productivity.

The venture may be particularly important in Alzheimer’s research. Since 1998, there have been more than 100 attempts to develop a treatment, and all have failed. The last two years have featured setbacks by both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher has said his company won’t pursue therapies there because the science isn’t advanced enough to justify the risks and costs to develop a drug.

“Currently, we are investing a great deal of money and time in avenues with high failure rates, while patients and their families wait,” NIH Director Francis Collins, said in a prepared statement. “All sectors of the biomedical enterprise agree that new approaches are sorely needed.”

More than 5 million Americans suffer with Alzheimer’s disease, and the number is expected to triple by 2050. The only drugs approved for the condition ease symptoms for a few months while the debilitating brain disease rampages on. Still, they generate more than $5 billion annually.

Biomarker research

Research coordinated by the NIH will include collecting tissue samples from thousands of patients to look for common “biomarkers” that might be good targets for new drugs, the NIH statement said. The first projects are expected to last three to five years, and may lead to collaborations on other diseases if the research is successful, the agency said.

The coordinated effort “rallies scientific key players of the innovation ecosystem in a more unified way,” said Mikael Dolsten, president of worldwide research and development for New York-based Pfizer, in a prepared statement.

Rupert Vessey, senior vice president at Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co., identified new, innovative ways to develop drugs as the most critical health challenge facing the industry. The collaboration “will be important to unravelling the mysteries of the diseases that cause suffering for individuals and are a burden to our society,” he said in an e- mailed statement.

Other companies involved are AbbVie Inc., Biogen Idec Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will also participate, as well as not-for-profit advocacy groups representing patients suffering from the diseases, the government said.

The NIH is the largest source of funding for biomedical research in the world, with an annual budget of more than $30 billion. Much of that money is consumed by basic research into human biology and research into major causes of death, including cancer and infectious diseases.

The agency expects to spend about $1.1 billion on diabetes this year; $562 million on arthritis; $260 million on arthritis and $109 million on lupus. The agency will spend $3.1 billion researching HIV and AIDS, by comparison, the most of any single disease.

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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