Feb. 06, 2014

NIH Announces Partnership to Accelerate Development of New Treatments for Lupus & Other Diseases

Lupus Foundation of America Joins a Five-Year Initiative to Bring Together Government, Academia, Industry and Nonprofit Health Organizations to Harness Capabilities and Resources

(Washington, DC) February 4, 2014 - The Lupus Foundation of America will partner with the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) to support a new five-year initiative that will accelerate the ability to develop new medicines for lupus and other diverse and complex diseases.  Lupus is included among four diseases that will be the focus of the new Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP).  The project is a $235 million collaborative effort by government, academia, industry and nonprofit health organizations that will support research to more fully understand the underlying causes of specific diseases and identify and validate the right biologic targets to pursue for possible drug therapies.

Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced the partnership today (Tuesday) during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.  The goals of AMP are to increase the number of new diagnostic tests and treatments for specific diseases, and to reduce the time and expense required to bring new therapies into clinical use.  The four diseases selected for the initial project are Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus.  The project allocates $41.6 million specifically for research on the autoimmune diseases RA and lupus.

Lupus was selected for this project because of the lack of effective targeted therapies for the most severe forms of the disease, such as when lupus affects the kidneys or the central nervous system. Within the past sixty years, only one new drug has been developed and approved specifically for use in treating lupus.

“Lupus is a complex disease, and the scope of the AMP project is tailor made for a collaborative effort among the NIH, industry, academic medical research centers and nonprofit health organizations,” said Dr. Gary Gilkeson, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development at the Medical University of South Carolina and Chair of the Lupus Foundation of America Medical-Scientific Advisory Council.  “Now more than ever, we must bring stakeholders together to focus our energies and efforts on scientific areas that will accelerate the pace of lupus research.  We believe this initiative will ultimately lead to new understanding of the underlying causes of lupus along with new therapies for this devastating disease.”

“We are pleased to be a partner in this important collaborative effort which will bring greater focus and coordination to help solve the cruel mystery of lupus and improve the quality of life for millions of people worldwide,” said Sandra C. Raymond, President & CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America. “In recent years there have been a number of scientific findings and developments that have placed us at the brink of breakthrough, and greater collaboration among all stakeholders is needed to maximize comprehensive efforts to bring lupus under control.” 

The initial focus of the AMP project for lupus will be on how lupus affects the kidneys and the skin.  The vision for the project is to identify key targets within the immune system that contribute to the underlying biological causes of lupus that affects the kidneys and the skin.  

The AMP project complements the Lupus Foundation of America’s ongoing efforts and strategies to advance the science and medicine of lupus and expand the number of new therapies available to manage the disease.  In 2009, the Foundation commissioned a first-of-its-kind report to detail obstacles and provide a roadmap to speed development of new safe, effective and more tolerable treatments for lupus.  The report, authored by the respected health policy research organization The Lewin Group, called for organizing a new coordinated national effort to overcome the barriers.  The report also recommended that the scientific community and NIH collaborate on a research agenda to provide a clear pathway to drug development in lupus.

The aim of the AMP project is to identify and validate clinically relevant disease targets for drug development.  By utilizing the resources of the National Institutes of Health and a vast network of academic medical centers across the nation, the project will increase efficiency in the drug development process by evaluating a large number of potential biological candidates to identify the best targets. 

Better understanding of the pathways that contribute to the development of a particular disease and identifying the specific biological targets that can be used to prevent the disease will help industry to better design and test potential new treatments.  An important benefit of this project will be to provide data that enables industry to better select the right biological targets early in the drug development process, reducing risk and increasing opportunities for success.  These efficiencies hopefully will stimulate additional investment in new effective treatments and speed the process to put them to use treating patients and helping improve the quality of live for millions of people around the world.

Related Links:  

National Institutes of Health