Harvard Enters into Research Collaboration with Pharmaceutical Company

The University has entered a research collaboration with Sanofi-Aventis, a global pharmaceutical company based in Paris, to promote studies in several therapeutic areas, including cancer, diabetes, and inflammation.

As part of the agreement, Sanofi-Aventis will provide grants to fund projects proposed by Harvard researchers. In return, Sanofi-Aventis has the right to review the results of the funded projects, according to B. D. Colen, Harvard’s senior communications officer for university science.

The exact amount of money Harvard will receive to fund the projects is not being disclosed at this time, according to Colen, though he said the figure is of “significant magnitude.”

Sanofi-Aventis plans to use the new information discovered by Harvard researchers to develop new drugs and diagnostic applications.

The projects will be selected for funding by a Joint Scientific Steering Committee, composed of an equal number of representatives from Sanofi-Aventis and Harvard, according to Colen. The projects will be judged based on scientific merit and value to biomedical research.

“Collaboration between academics and industry can be beneficial for both parties,” said Steven E. Shoelson, a professor at Harvard Medical School and section head at the Joslin Diabetes Center. “On the negative side, you have to be careful in these collaborations that there are no conflicts of interest. This can be beneficial, providing appropriate steps are taken to minimize or completely alleviate any conflicts of interest.”

The new collaboration aligns with Sanofi-Aventis’ current strategy to develop new drugs in light of increased competition posed by generics, as many products are set to go off patent between 2010 and 2012.

Harvard is not the only university to partner with Sanofi-Aventis. In May, the company entered into a similar agreement with Charité University in Berlin.

Sanofi-Aventis also collaborated with an affiliated institute in Boston prior to its agreement with Harvard. The Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced a collaboration with the company in September. Their work will focus on identifying oncology targets for further research to discover new anticancer drugs. Dana-Farber will receive $33 million upfront and research funding for a minimum of three years, according to a press release.

Harvard’s Office of Technology Development will also be involved in the collaboration between Sanofi-Aventis and Harvard by periodically identifying technologies that could work with the funded research projects, which Sanofi-Aventis will then evaluate.

Sanofi-Aventis will host an annual scientific forum for representatives from the company and Harvard researchers to discuss current scientific matters and review the progress of the funded research projects.