Global drug makers, regulators and scientists are working together to push the US and China to collaborate on research to accelerate the process of developing new cancer drugs through a form of “ping pong diplomacy.”
The Bloomberg New Economy International Cancer Coalition is set to launch in Singapore later this month to create a body that would allow the two countries to work together despite blame and divisions between the major powers during the pandemic.
By tapping into the two largest populations of cancer patients in the world, the coalition aims to significantly reduce the time it takes to collect enough data to prove a new drug is safe and effective. Concrete goals include creating standards about how patients are selected for the more tailor-made cancer drugs.
The coalition includes representatives from Western pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Amgen, and Chinese drug manufacturers including Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine, BeiGene, Innovent Biologics and Zai Lab, as well as leading academics in the US and China. But it does not yet include Chinese officials or the regulator.
Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, who is helping to direct the effort in his role as head of the Asia Society, compared it to the 1970s attempt to thaw relations between the US and China using table tennis.
“The relationship between the US and China has gotten so bad that we at the Asia Society have formed the idea that cancer treatment trials may well become the next iteration of ping pong diplomacy to get this relationship back on track,” he said.
Rudd added that the coalition should allay concerns about intellectual property, especially the protection of genetic codes.
The coalition will have to deal with the consequences of the pandemic, which started in Wuhan, China. A US intelligence agency recently said it is likely that the virus escaped accidentally from a lab in Wuhan. China has not cooperated with the investigation and US intelligence agencies have not reached a definitive conclusion. Four other agencies disagreed and another three were unable to draw any conclusions.
“Covid should have been the classic case study of a global public good that should have triumphed over the normal politics and geopolitics of a fraught political relationship,” Rudd said. “In fact, it did the opposite: exacerbating a pre-existing difficulty between Beijing and Washington rather than providing the places to participate in serious combined joint research programs.”
The coalition plans to use the US Food and Drug Administration’s Project Orbis, where the regulator is working with colleagues in countries such as Canada, Australia and Switzerland, as a model to make it easier to conduct and submit cross-border clinical trials. simplifying regulation.
Lumykras, a drug produced by US biotechnology company Amgen, was approved in the UK using Project Orbis. Bob Li, an oncologist at the US Cancer Research Center Memorial Sloan Kettering, said he hoped to repeat the successful global trial for Lumykras, reducing the approval time for the innovative cancer treatment targeting the difficult-to-treat KRAS mutation from 15 years to just three. .
He also said China’s rapid patient recruitment has helped AstraZeneca’s lung cancer drug Tagrisso, which targets a mutation more commonly found in the tumors of Asian women, to be developed in record time.
“Because of the size of the cancer patient population in China, we have the ability to get things done very quickly,” he added.