By Aleea Farrakh, originally published in “Benchmarks” June 2008
Even though the National Cancer Institute is the leading Federal government agency for cancer research, it is hardly the sole contributor in the fight against cancer. Other government agencies, non-profit organizations, academia and private industry all play critical roles in helping find a cure for the disease. The combined efforts of many groups can result in productive partnerships where different organizations can, collectively and individually, play significant roles in achieving progress.
Benchmarks sat down with Philip Arlen, M.D., director of the Clinical Research Group in the Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology, part of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, to discuss his views on partnerships related to vaccine development.
Benchmarks -What are some examples of major successes in public/private partnerships when it comes to vaccine development?
Dr. Philip Arlen: There are therapeutic vaccines and preventative vaccines– a good example for preventative vaccines is the work of Drs. Douglas Lowy and John Schiller here at NCI which has led to the development of the HPV vaccine that is being utilized not only in the U.S., but all over the world commercially. Currently, no therapeutic [treatment] vaccine has been approved by the FDA. However, a couple of examples of partnerships resulting with private industry and NCI/academia include:
– The PSA-TRICOM vaccine was developed at NCI, and initially involved a partnership with Therion Biologics. [This partnership] resulted in a number of promising Phase II studies with the vaccine in prostate cancer. A CRADA [Cooperative Research and Development Agreement] to work with the NCI and Bavarian Nordic (BN) ImmunoTherapeutics Inc., to further develop this vaccine is now ongoing.
– A partnership with Globeimmune Inc. and the NCI through a CRADA has resulted in a Saccharomyces-CEA based vaccine that is leading to an IND [Investigational New Drug] and Phase I study at the NCI.
– Johns Hopkins University (an NCI-funded institution) has worked extensively with CellGenesys in developing whole-cell tumor vaccines secreting GM-CSF (a protein that stimulates immune cell growth).
Benchmarks: What are the major barriers when working with private industry?
(Note from SaneVax: It behooves every medical consumer in the world to gain an understanding of how so-called public [government] – private [corporate] partnerships work, especially when it comes to vaccine research and development. Basically, in the case of HPV vaccines, the government did the initial research and then turned the information over [retaining a financial interest] to pharmacuetical companies for them to conduct the clinical trials, manufacture and market any vaccines developed from the initial government research. All in the effort to get vaccines to the market quicker.
The SaneVax Team wants to know who is watching out for the medical consumer? How can government agencies fulfill their role as guardians of health and safety when they have a financial interest in the product being brought to market?