The US National Institutes of Health (NIH), along with 11 biopharmaceutical companies, has launched a $215m five-year public-private research collaboration to advance new cancer immunotherapy strategies for more patients.

Launched as part of the Cancer Moonshot initiative, the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT) will initially focus on efforts to identify, develop and validate biomarkers, as well as facilitate systematic and uniform clinical testing.

This approach of standardising biomarkers will help understand how immunotherapies work in some patients, and predict their response to treatment, according to NIH.

PACT partners include AbbVie, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Genentech, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Pfizer.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) is also providing support.

NIH director Dr Francis S. Collins said: “We have seen dramatic responses from immunotherapy, often eradicating cancer completely for some cancer patients.

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“We have seen dramatic responses from immunotherapy, often eradicating cancer completely for some cancer patients.”

“We need to bring that kind of success, and hope, for more people and more types of cancers, and we need to do it quickly. A systematic approach like PACT will help us to achieve success faster.”

Furthermore, the partnership will facilitate information sharing to better coordinate clinical efforts, align investigative approaches, reduce duplication and enable superior trials.

PACT will be managed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) and the Food and Drug Administration will act as an advisory.

NIH will contribute $160m based on the availability of funds, while the 11 companies will contribute up to $1m per year for five years through the FNIH.