Advancing Research

Overview

Cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric conditions and emerging infectious diseases are just some of the major health problems we face today. The cost is measured in years of life lost, in disability and decreased quality of life, in billions of dollars spent on healthcare and in the strain on families and communities supporting people affected by these terrible diseases. 

Biomedical research and innovation have delivered historic breakthroughs, including a vaccine that eradicated polio, antibiotics curing once-deadly infections, the artificial heart valve and many more.

More recently, immunotherapy has transformed how certain cancers, such as melanoma, are treated, turning some cancer diagnoses from a death sentence into a potentially treatable chronic condition. And, currently, we are working to develop treatments and diagnostics to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discovery and innovation must keep pace with ever-more pressing challenges in medicine and public health. The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) welcomes new partners to add their support to existing efforts or work with us to build new programs and projects.

Here are examples from three of the many disease areas where the FNIH is at work.

Cancer

By 2040, the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to hit 29.5 million. The number of cancer-related deaths may hit 16.4 million – unless we act.

The FNIH fights cancer through projects that have changed the landscape of cancer research and revolutionized how clinical trials are developed and implemented. 

For example, the Lung-MAP project is a groundbreaking multi-center clinical trial organized in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and engaging dozens of other partners. It is one of the first trials ever to use a targeted approach to match patients with investigational new treatments – based on patients’ unique lung tumor profiles. Through the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT), coordinated by the FNIH as part of the Cancer Moonshot, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and 12 leading pharmaceutical companies work to harness the immune system to attack cancer by identifying biomarkers of disease. 

Individual and foundation philanthropic support also makes a big impact. Giving back to the NIH, supporting existing research or focusing on new efforts that meet shared goals. For example, the FNIH manages the O’Neill Renal Cell Cancer Research Fund established by the O’Neill family in 2003 to honor their father, who was treated at the NIH. This fund supports a post-baccalaureate fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Childs at the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to search for a cure for renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer. The fund is augmented by an annual Boo! Run for Life 10K run and walk around the Tidal Basin on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., supported by generous contributions from individuals to sustain this annual fellowship. 

To learn more about the FNIH’s work advancing cancer research, contact advancement@fnih.org.

Alzheimer’s Disease 

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, affects an estimated 5.8 million adults in the U.S. over age 65 – a number that is expected to increase as baby boomers age. Healthcare costs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s were estimated to be $305 billion in 2020 and will likely surpass $1 trillion by 2050. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, nor is there a simple, non-invasive way to detect the disease early and intervene before it is too late.

The FNIH has been working to advance discoveries and treatments for Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders for more than 15 years. Key programs include ADNI, the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI),  a partnership led by the NIH’s National Institute on Aging that has involved the scientific and financial support of more than 45 industry and not-for-profit partners since its launch in 2004. ADNI’s goal is to develop ways to detect Alzheimer’s at the earliest stage possible when intervention may be most effective.

The Accelerating Medicines Partnership® Program - Alzheimer’s Disease, (AMP® AD) a precompetitive effort marshalling more than $185 million in public and private dollars – with scientists from the federal government, academia, industry and nonprofit organizations working together to fight this devastating disease. In 2021, a new AMP AD partnership is expanding research to discover new therapeutics and apply them to at-risk populations.

15+ Years of Achievement. ADNI has successfully validated multiple neuroimaging and biofluid biomarkers, fundamentally transforming Alzheimer’s clinical trials. In addition to advancing clinical trials, ADNI’s goal has been to share the data and biosamples it collects with the broader scientific community. With its commitment to open-access data, by the close of 2020, ADNI had stimulated research at all levels, including over 24,500 data use requests, 131 million data downloads and 2,300 manuscript submissions over the past decade. 

Plasma Aβ, a program of the FNIH Biomarkers Consortium, will develop blood tests to aid in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The blood tests could also be used to track patients’ responses to treatment less invasively than current techniques (e.g., spinal tap). The findings are anticipated to improve clinical trials and patient care.

To learn more about the FNIH’s work in Alzheimer’s disease, contact advancement@fnih.org.

Communicable Diseases 

As of  January 1, 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic had infected more than 72 million people around the world and caused 1.62 million deaths,  more than 455,000 of which were in the United States.  The pandemic has devastated national economies and caused millions to lose their livelihoods.

When the pandemic struck, the FNIH acted quickly to support the NIH’s response. Since April 2020, the FNIH has managed the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, created by the NIH to coordinate the massive, complex efforts of partners across public and private sectors to develop COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. One way to support ACTIV and pandemic research and preparedness is by contributing to the FNIH Pandemic Response Fund. Donate now to help tackle COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics.

COVID-19 is only the latest in a series of emerging infectious diseases like SARS, MERS, Ebola and Zika that plague populations worldwide. And, the list keeps growing. Meanwhile, devastating “old” infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria continue to kill people globally. In 2019, approximately 690,000 people around the world died of AIDS-related illnesses , 409,000 died of malaria and more than 1.4 million people worldwide died from tuberculosis. 

The FNIH manages several programs to address the challenge of existing and emerging infectious diseases. For example, the Comprehensive Cellular Vaccine Immune Monitoring Consortium develops tools to understand how vaccines can activate key immune cells to protect against HIV. Other FNIH-supported programs will harness this improved understanding to discover new vaccines and immunotherapies for HIV/AIDS. 

Many infections with epidemic potential are carried by insect vectors, particularly mosquitoes.  Examples include viruses such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever, as well as parasites such as malaria. Since 2005, the FNIH has worked to develop better ways to prevent transmission of mosquito-borne diseases. Beginning with its role in the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative and continuing on to its leadership of the GeneConvene Global Collaborative, the FNIH has been at the forefront of scientific developments in genetic biocontrol technology to address the challenges of mosquito-borne diseases.    

To learn more about the FNIH’s work in advancing research on communicable diseases, contact advancement@fnih.org.

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