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Making Medicine Personal
The Biggest Healthcare Story You'll See This Week

Something unthinkable is happening: the NIH is launching a new collaborative project with private companies to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Rival companies who wouldn’t have worked together on R&D even a few years ago are partnering up, with a group budget and shared data and samples. WaPo has more:

The companies that have signed up to participate include most of the large drug makers, which in the past had resisted calls to share detailed data and samples from experiments, preferring to instead use the information to gain lucrative patents.

The agreement with NIH represents a major break from how they used to do business. The competing pharmaceutical companies have said they will hold off launching commercial ventures based on discoveries from the partnership until after the data has been made publicly available. The idea behind the collaboration is similar to that of the “open source” movement among some computer scientists who believe that sharing their code with anyone who wants it is the best way to innovate.

We don’t know enough yet to say how this will turn out—after all, one would be forgiven for being skeptical about a closer partnership between the federal government and Big Pharma. But if it works, it could have a big impact. The last great collaborative effort remotely of this type was the very successful Human Genome Project, in which scientists from 18 different countries worked together to map human DNA. Some of the applications coming out of that project were groundbreaking—and all of this was done without collaboration with the private sector.

This new proposed program is targeted specifically at the four diseases mentioned above. But by bringing government and the private sector together to share information and innovate on treatment, this project could wind up spurring something much larger. We’ll be watching closely to see how this partnership interacts with the Human Genome Project and other cutting-edge personalized medicine projects going forward.

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    This collaboration makes sense if you would credit Obama for innovating in health care as he has in, say, the energy sector. We are fortunate to have a president dedicated to bringing people together to solve problems.

  • Fat_Man

    Big government and big corporations enter into a partnership. It reminds me of an obsolete European Political theory.

    Does anybody remember what the name of the theory was?

    • Fat_Man

      Oh. Now, I remember. It was Fascism.

    • Andrew Allison

      What makes you think that Fascism is obsolete? Exhibit A: ACA. The left has managed to obfuscate the fact that, like National Socialism (a.k.a Nazi), Fascism was, and is, a Socialist ideology.

  • crocodilechuck

    Do any of Mead’s slave labour interns do ANY research prior to extruding garbage like this post?

    “and all of this was done without collaboration with the private sector”

    Ahem…..the Human Genome Project was completed by the National Institutes of Health and a private company headed up by Craig Venter called Celera:

    Further, this tortured passage makes no sense: “…after all, one would be forgiven for being skeptical about a closer partnership between the federal government and Big Pharma”

    Really? Who do you think pays for and in many cases actually performs the basic research which Pharma companies use in developing new drugs?

  • Boritz

    Before it’s over will they force out any CEOs like they did Rick Wagoner? Probably not. They are more likely to treat the pharms like Legos as they do the insurance companies.

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