May 3, 2012 / 3:20 PM / 7 years ago

U.S. to partner with Big Pharma for drug discovery

CHICAGO, May 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. government will help drug companies find treatments for a host of diseases through a new collaboration in which researchers at the National Institutes of Health will test experimental drugs provided by manufacturers.

The NIH said on Thursday that Pfizer Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Eli Lilly and Co have agreed to make dozens of compounds available for a pilot phase of the project.

“Americans are eagerly awaiting the next generation of cures and treatments to help them live longer and healthier lives,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “To accelerate our nation’s therapeutic development process, it is essential that we forge strong, innovative, and strategic partnerships across government, academia, and industry.”

Big advances in genetics have allowed researchers to identify causes of more than 4,500 diseases. Turning those discoveries into treatments has been difficult, and there are drugs to treat only about 250 of these conditions.

“We need to speed the pace at which we are turning discoveries into better health outcomes,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. “NIH looks forward to working with our partners in industry and academia to tackle an urgent need that is beyond the scope of any one organization or sector.”

The effort will focus on finding uses for drugs that have cleared several steps in the development process, including testing in people.

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