Working in collaboration with Oregon’s university medical schools, hospitals and clinical research centers, biopharmaceutical companies are conducting or have conducted since 1999 more than 2,300 clinical trials of new medicines in the state, a report released today shows.

Clinical trials are critical to the development of new medicines, accounting for up to seven years of the 10 to 15 years required to develop a new drug, according to “Research in Your Backyard: Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Oregon.”

The report – compiled by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) – says trials of new treatments involve thousands of patients and often the generation of tens of thousands of pages of scientific and technical data to help prove safety and effectiveness.More than 1,200 of Oregon’s clinical tests target or have targeted the nation’s six most debilitating chronic diseases – asthma, cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and mental illnesses.

About 230 of the tests are still recruiting patients, and that means some disease sufferers still seeking effective medications have new therapeutic options they can discuss with their doctors. The appendix of the report provides information on each of the trials still seeking participants.

The report also stresses that many of the medicines being tested in Oregon are new generation biotechnology drugs, including monoclonal antibody therapies for cancer and lupus. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made versions of a naturally-occurring immune system protein that binds to and neutralizes foreign toxic substances.

“Through biotechnology, our companies are developing new ways to not only more effectively treat disease, but also to predict, preempt and prevent it,” said Jeff Trewhitt, a PhRMA spokesman. “The clinical trials of these new medicines are helping to advance science, patient care and the state’s economy.”

Dr. Mark Richardson, dean of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), said clinical trials in the state, including those being conducted at OHSU, “make cutting-edge treatments available to patients suffering from a wide range of diseases. At Oregon’s only academic health center, OHSU physicians and researchers work closely with the pharmaceutical industry through clinical trials.”

Dr. Richardson estimates that the clinical trials conducted by the university have “attracted nearly $43 million to Oregon, supporting numerous jobs that pay well and stimulating the economy.”

The clinical trial partnership also pays dividends for the biopharmaceutical research companies sponsoring the tests. “We are proud to be in Oregon because it has created an environment that makes our work possible,” said Sandra Pizarro, Senior Manager at Genentech. “The many clinical trials in the state are evidence of a vibrant research community that is a result of collaboration between premiere research institutions, local communities and great health care partners.”

Other biopharmaceutical companies sponsoring trials of new medicines in Oregon include Pfizer Inc., Amgen Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Boehringer Ingelheim, Gilead Sciences, Novartis, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Sanofi and Eisai Inc.

Biotechnology and bioscience innovation has been important to the Oregon economy in recent years. The Oregon Bioscience Association noted in a recent economic impact survey that growth in the state’s biotech and life science sector “continued between 2007 and 2009 as the nation and the state entered into a recession and subsequent slow-growth period, providing more than 500 new jobs in the higher-paying, technical skills arena.”

Oregon’s biosciences industry, in 2009, supported 36,800 jobs and $1.9 billion in personal income. The sector, including biopharmaceutical research companies, also generated $273.9 million in local and state taxes.

Besides the trials being conducted by OHSU in Portland, new medicine clinical test collaborations between biopharmaceutical companies and local facilities are underway at:

• Clinical Research Institute of Southern Oregon in Medford.
• Willamette Valley Cancer Institute & Research Center in Eugene and Springfield.
• Cancer Care of the Cascades in Bend.
• Bend Memorial Clinic in Bend.
• Allergy and Asthma Research Group in Eugene.
• Sunstone Medical Research in Medford.
• Providence St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Portland.
• St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.
• Sacred Heart Medical Center in Springfield.
• Oregon Center for Clinical Investigations in Portland and Salem.
• Knight Cancer Center in Beaverton, Gresham, Portland and Tualatin.
• Willamette Valley Clinical Studies in Eugene.
• Summit Research Network in Portland.
• North Bend Medical Center in Coos Bay.
• Providence Portland Cancer Center in Portland.
• Northwest Renal Clinic in Portland.
• Many other institutes and research centers throughout the state.