Big Pharma Goes Back To School | January 24, 2011 Issue - Vol. 89 Issue 4 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 4 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: January 24, 2011

Big Pharma Goes Back To School

Partnerships: Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson are latest firms to ink research pacts
Department: Business
Keywords: Academic partnerships, R&D, pharmaceuticals
<em>Vincent Chen of Sanford-Burnham views a differentiated 
stem cell.</em>
Credit: Sanford-Burnham
<em>Vincent Chen of Sanford-Burnham views a differentiated 
stem cell.</em>
Credit: Sanford-Burnham

In the latest in a spate of academic-industry partnerships, Sanofi-Aventis has formed an R&D collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco, that includes an oncology drug development partnership and a broad-based pharmacological science program involving multiple therapeutic areas.

Under the agreement, Sanofi will fund up to five grants per year from those selected by a UCSF-Sanofi joint steering committee. The drug firm will also fund an annual research forum that will bring together researchers from both parties to review projects.

The deal follows an $85 million agreement announced last year between the university and Pfizer. UCSF has a similar partnership with Genentech, and it announced another deal earlier this month with Bayer.

Teri Melese, director of research technologies and alliances at UCSF’s School of Medicine, tells C&EN that the Sanofi partnership is distinct from the others in that investigators are not focused on any one therapeutic area in particular. “There is a willingness to be more opportunistic,” she says. “It will allow for disruptive technologies and breakthrough approaches. I think it is unique, and I hope it is a trend.”

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson’s Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals division has entered into an agreement with Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute to discover compounds for Alzheimer’s disease and psychiatric disorders. Under the three-year agreement, the partners will work on new drug targets and seek compounds suitable for further development by J&J. The drug firm will have exclusive access to a team of scientists at Sanford-Burnham.

Sanford-Burnham isn’t disclosing the value of the funding it will receive from J&J but says it is comparable to that of the Pfizer-UCSF agreement. A joint steering committee, partly funded by the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics at Sanford-Burnham, will oversee the collaboration.

Paul Laikind, chief business officer at Sanford-Burnham, tells C&EN that partnerships with drug companies offer noncommercial research entities a chance to assert their capabilities in areas such as translational research. “The institute went through a lot of expense and effort in structuring itself to do that,” he says.

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