Rival drug makers partner with NIH to fight disease

Prominent drug makers are forming an alliance with the federal government to pool resources and coordinate efforts to fight chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's.

The $230 million public-private partnership, announced Tuesday by the Obama administration, seeks to make progress against four key conditions by investigating their biology and encouraging the development of new drugs.

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Under the five year program, 10 drug companies will share personnel, research and samples with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in an effort to identify new disease treatments. The targeted conditions will be Alzheimer's, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Experts described the initiative as groundbreaking for the way it will unite drug makers, which tend to be highly secretive about their internal research.

Participating companies include major brand names like Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Pfizer. Several nonprofit disease groups will also provide counsel.

The effort comes amid rising demand for Alzheimer's treatments in particular. The aging of the baby boom generation is expected to speed up this trend. All four diseases targeted by the program, dubbed the Accelerating Medicine Partnership, lack cures.

Lawmakers and disease advocates welcomed the announcement Tuesday as a sign of imminent progress in research on serious diseases. Several praised plans for results to be published for the wider biomedical community, encouraging new research across the field.

"The search for cures must be an all-hands-on-deck effort," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in a statement. "This landmark effort exemplifies the very best of a public-private collaboration."