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Merck Joins Forces With Harvard Researchers For Drug Discovery

by Lisa M. Jarvis
September 24, 2007 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 85, ISSUE 39

In an agreement being called "an innovative model for industry/academic partnerships," researchers from Harvard Medical School and Merck & Co.'s Boston R&D center are teaming up to accelerate research in oncology and central nervous system disorders. Six HMS labs will receive funding from Merck, and scientists from both organizations will work together in the two therapeutic areas.

Individual academic researchers or projects routinely receive funding from drug companies, but the Merck agreement with Harvard is unique in that it involves multiple labs working in specific therapeutic areas, says Katherine Gordon, director of business development at HMS.

According to Gordon, the pact with Merck represents one route academia is taking to translate basic knowledge about the biology and chemistry of a disease into viable drug candidates. Though the agreement focuses on basic research, the parties expect it will lead to products.

For HMS, the deal is also a way to advance its science in a challenging funding environment. Earlier this month, Harvard handed out the first round of grants through its new Technology Development Accelerator Fund, established to develop promising life sciences ideas to a point where industry will take interest.

For Merck, the collaboration bolsters activities at its Boston lab, which opened in 2004.



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