National Cancer Institute unveils ambitious program to hasten drug research

The National Cancer Institute is creating an ambitious new program that will enable scientists to access new drugs and compounds faster for medical research, according to STAT.

The program, which is part of Vice President Joe Biden's cancer moonshot initiative and called the NCI Formulary, will begin as an agreement between the NCI and six pharmaceutical companies, according to the report. NCI will serve as an intermediary between outside researchers and pharmaceutical companies, which is intended to make it easier for scientists to research new combination therapies for cancer, according to the report.

The six initial participants include Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Genentech, Kyowa Kirin, Loxo Oncology, and Xcovery, but NCI officials said they are currently negotiating with other drugmakers to participate and add more therapies to the formulary, according to the report.

Current rules require researchers who want to combine two drugs manufactured by different companies in a clinical trial to negotiate a contract with the firms. This process, which involves establishing data and intellectual property rights, along with numerous other details, could be long.

"It's very difficult for investigators or physicians to be able to get access to different types of drugs," said Kim Harrow, vice president of clinical operations at Xcovery, a drug company working on lung cancer therapies and participating in the NCI program, according to the report. Ms. Harrow said she is aware of proposed studies that have been caught in negotiations for two or more years.  

Through the NCI Formulary, participating drug companies will agree to review proposed studies within 60 days, and data and intellectual property rights will be standardized, according to the report.

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