Stories about: industry-academia partnerships

Personal genomics takes flight as hospitals join forces with industry

A new spinoff business will make large-scale genomic diagnostics a reality in medical practice (Image: Rosendahl)

Genomic sequencing and molecular diagnostics are becoming a global business. At the recent American Society of Human Genetics meeting, dazzling technologies for reading genetic code were on display—promising faster, cheaper, sleeker.

Nevertheless, it’s become clear that the ability to determine someone’s DNA or RNA sequence doesn’t automatically translate into useful diagnostics or even actionable information. In fact, the findings are often confusing and hard to interpret, even by physicians.

That’s where academic-industry partnerships can flourish—tapping the deep expertise of medical research centers to bring clinical meaning to sequencing findings. Yesterday, Boston Children’s Hospital and Life Technologies Corp. announced a new venture with a great list of ingredients: fast, accurate, scalable sequencing technology—Life’s Ion Proton® Sequencer—but also research and clinical experience in rare and genetic diseases, bioinformatics expertise to handle the big data, and the medical and counseling expertise to create meaning from the results.

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A good deal: Pharma and academia team up to use stem cells to find autism treatments

In a four-way collaboration, skin cells from patients with autism will be used to make pluripotent stem cells. These will be made into neurons — for study of what goes awry at the cellular level in autism, and for testing of drugs. (Miserlou/Wikimedia Commons)

In recent years, creative new partnerships have demonstrated big pharma’s recognition that academic medical centers hold many important cards in clinical research: scientific expertise, animal models of disease, patient samples and phenotypic data.

Increasingly, these partnerships involve academic and company researchers developing joint grant proposals in targeted areas, selected (by joint agreement) for company sponsorship. Some, like the Immune Disease Institute’s $25M arrangement with GlaxoSmithKline, are specific to one academic institution; others, like Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) program, provide the same resources under the same deal structure to multiple institutions. Each new deal advances the interaction and understanding between academia and pharma around the common goal of finding new compounds and bringing them to clinic.

Now, in an exciting twist on its track record of partnerships with academic institutions, Roche has brought together three Harvard-affiliated organizations to screen and identify new drugs for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

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Vector’s upcoming coverage of BioPharm 2011

Vector and Children’s Hospital Boston’s Technology and Innovation Development Office (TIDO) at will be enthusiastic participants in next week’s BioPharm America conference (Sept 7-9).  In between networking with industry colleagues and pitching technologies developed at Children’s, we’ll be providing blog coverage and live-tweeting from the sessions under the hashtag #BPA11.

Since BioPharm is in Boston this year, we’re also heavily involved as presenters. Bruce Zetter of Children’s Vascular Biology program will speak about cancer biomarkers on a Wednesday panel titled Lessons Learned in Personalized Medicine in Oncology. Leonard Zon, director of Children’s Stem Cell Program, will describe the development of stem-cell-boosting drugs as part of a Friday panel titled Stem Cells and Drug Discovery: Confronting the Translational Imperative.

And Erik Halvorsen, director of Children’s TIDO, is a panelist in Wednesday’s session titled: Pharma’s Interest in Collaborating Early: Flavor of the Month or Viable Business Model?

Halvorsen elaborates on this theme in an interview for the online life sciences journal Partnering News.

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Enhancing the “virtuous cycle”: Focusing academic-industry partnerships

Therapeutic development at academic research hospitals
The virtuous cycle of treatment development, and how it can be enhanced by partnership with industry.

When the clinical and research enterprises at an academic medical center are strategically and tactically aligned, they enter a “virtuous cycle,” described by Stephen Wartman, president of the Association of Academic Health Centers. Clinician-researchers embody it: They know their patients’ needs, what treatments are available and the frustration when those options are insufficient. They take clinical problems back to the lab to figure out solutions, and are highly motivated to develop products because their goal begins and ends with helping the patient.

The academic medical center is the epicenter of therapeutic development. It’s where potential drug targets are identified and mapped from animal models to human tissues, and where clinical trials will ultimately take place. Yet, in the past, pharmaceutical and biotech companies have driven drug development, while academia has been a piecemeal contributor

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Big pharma’s changing business model: Inviting academia to take the lead

(photo: kisforkate/Flickr)

In almost every conversation I have these days with potential industry partners, I hear what seems to be the new buzz phrase: “Clear path to clinic.” A molecule with a “clear path to clinic” can become a medicine quickly, by virtue of a well-defined patient population, clear endpoints for clinical trials and measurable biomarkers.

Industry is increasingly recognizing that investigators at academic research centers know this path to clinic best. This has brought a shift in how industry interacts with academia, and new and equitable partnership structures are poised to facilitate joint therapeutic development like never before.

Pharma companies have a strong incentive to change.

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Biopharm America 2010, Day 3: Giving tech transfer a seat at the table

Arm Wrestling

First let me start out by saying that we are no longer ‘Tech Transfer.’ According to Children’s Hospital Boston’s Technology and Innovation Development Office (TIDO) Director, Erik Halvorsen who was a panelist at an event called  “From Idea to Company: Fundamental Building Blocks,” at the BioPharm America conference, the term ‘Tech Transfer’ is like the band Nirvana, which was popular in the nineties but has since lost its appeal among contemporary music fans.

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