Merck trumpets a global research initiative to speed cancer drugs

Merck (NYSE: MRK) has pieced together an international network of cancer research centers that will collaborate with the Big Pharma company on new and better ways to speed the development of cancer drugs and vaccines.

In trumpeting the move, Merck cited a recent IOM study which concluded that half of all cancer trials were scuttled due to bureaucracy, bad procedures and poor coordination-hurdles that could be overcome through better coordination and collaboration.

"By partnering at an early stage with global centers of excellence and combining our strengths in key areas such as biomarkers, information technology and adaptive clinical trial design, we are fundamentally changing the way we evaluate and advance our oncology pipeline," said Gary Gilliland, senior vice president of Merck Research Laboratories and Oncology Franchise Head.

The sites, scattered from Brazil to Norway, will help design and execute cancer trials, recruiting 1,200 patients for up to 40 trials. While there has been a big industry emphasis on collaboration and efficiency, the trend has pointed toward steadily higher costs and longer development times. And Merck has been plagued by that trend as much as any other drug developer. Given the lengthy time it takes to test a cancer drug, we won't know how successful Merck's new initiative is for some time to come.

- here's the Merck release for more info