Saturday, June 22, 2024

FDA Launches START Program for Rare Diseases to Accelerate Therapeutic Development

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) and Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) recently launched the Support for Clinical Trials Advancing Rare Disease Therapeutics (START) Pilot Program for rare diseases. This innovative initiative is crafted to accelerate the development of groundbreaking drugs and biological products for rare diseases. It offers enhanced support and frequent expert advice from the FDA to selected participants, aiming to facilitate faster and more effective therapeutic introductions to the market.

Participants in the START program will receive detailed guidance tailored to critical aspects of clinical trial design and execution. This comprehensive support covers the determination of appropriate control groups, selection of patient populations, utilization of nonclinical data, and refinement of product characterization strategies. By addressing these specific developmental challenges, the program seeks to streamline the process of bringing potentially transformative therapies to patients, enhancing the speed and efficiency of clinical trials.

Eligibility Criteria and Focus Areas for FDA’s START Program in Rare Disease Therapeutics

To qualify for the START program, sponsors must be actively engaged in clinical trials under an investigational new drug application (IND) that has been submitted or converted to the Electronic Common Technical Document (eCTD) format, unless a waiver has been granted. Moreover, these sponsors must demonstrate that their Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls (CMC) development processes are well-aligned with their clinical progress, ensuring a cohesive approach to drug development.

The START program is keenly focused on certain types of therapies depending on the FDA center involved. For CBER, the program is particularly interested in gene and cellular therapies aimed at treating serious rare diseases or conditions that are likely to cause significant disability or death within the first decade of life. Conversely, CDER’s focus within the START program is directed at therapies for rare neurodegenerative conditions, especially those with a genetic metabolic basis. This strategic focus ensures that the program supports advancements in areas with substantial unmet medical needs, where patient populations are desperately in need of innovative solutions.

Rare Diseases

FDA’s START Program to Accelerate Approval of Rare Diseases Therapies

The FDA expects the START program to significantly enhance the development and approval processes for vital therapies targeting rare diseases. By working closely with sponsors, the agency aims to gather insights that will help optimize the regulatory pathway for these critical products, thereby enhancing the availability of treatments that can save or dramatically alter lives.

The START program is a critical advancement in the FDA’s commitment to fostering innovation in the treatment of rare diseases. Through continuous interaction with participants in the program, the FDA intends to refine its regulatory approaches and encourage the swift development of new therapies. The experience and data garnered from this pilot are expected to inform future regulatory strategies and support structures designed to expedite the development of therapies for rare conditions, ultimately improving outcomes for patients with these challenging diseases.


Resource: Food and Drug Administration, May 31, 2024

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