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J&J Teams With Koch Institute

Alliance: Five-year pact will focus on cancer biology and diagnostics development

by Lisa M. Jarvis
July 5, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 27

Credit: Ellenzweig/MIT
An artist’s rendering of Koch’s new labs, which are set to open in December.
Credit: Ellenzweig/MIT
An artist’s rendering of Koch’s new labs, which are set to open in December.

Another pharmaceutical firm is deepening its ties with academia. Johnson & Johnson, through its Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary, has signed a broad, five-year oncology research pact with MIT’s David H. Koch Institute of Integrative Cancer Research.

The collaboration, which the partners are calling “Transcend,” will delve into cancer diagnostics, the origins of cancer, genetic models of disease, and profiles of a tumor’s microenvironment. J&J says the appeal of partnering with Koch is its dual expertise in biology and engineering, which could accelerate development of new technologies and therapeutics.

Koch scientists will submit research proposals to a joint steering committee, composed of three representatives each from J&J and Koch, which will select projects to fund. J&J is funding the research over the five-year period, providing an undisclosed up-front payment and the potential for follow-up investments.

The deal with Koch is part of J&J’s push to look outside its own labs to accelerate drug discovery and development. Last fall, the company created offices of external innovation for each of its therapeutic areas. The goal is to establish closer ties with academic institutions.

“We realized that if we keep trying to do it alone, we won’t get as far as we can if we find academic collaborations where we can have a broad approach and combine the strengths of both organizations,” says Kristen Von Seggern, J&J’s vice president of external innovation for oncology.

The pact between J&J and Koch is one of a growing number of alliances between industry and academia (C&EN, Nov. 10, 2008, page 13). Although companies have historically funded individual academic researchers on single projects, the new collaborations are meant to tap more broadly into academia’s strengths in basic science.

AstraZeneca, Merck & Co., and Pfizer have in recent years forged pacts in specific therapeutic areas with institutions such as Harvard and Columbia Universities. In May, Pfizer went a step further and said it would give a longtime partner, Washington University in St. Louis, unprecedented access to information on existing drug candidates in hopes of finding new uses for the molecules.



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