In January UCSF came to terms with sanofi-aventis on two agreements: an oncology partnership designed to accelerate research through Phase II trials, and an effort promoting research in pharmacological science and several therapeutic areas such as oncology, aging, diabetes, and inflammation.
Sanofi-aventis is also interested in helping UCSF shape research at early stages, rather than fund what already exists. The company is the first industry partner for UCSF’s 14-year-old Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research (PBBR), which awards funding to projects deemed to show a potential high impact, greater creativity, and an innovative approach to scientific discovery.
“The idea is that within 12 to 18 months, it will be clear whether or not the product of that research will be at a stage where having a collaboration around it makes sense,” Teri Melese, Ph.D., director, research technologies and alliances for UCSF’s School of Medicine, told GEN.
A joint selection committee of sanofi-aventis and UCSF representatives each year will award grants for up to five projects. After a year the start-ups win a first right to negotiate a follow-on agreement. It could allow for an extension of time on the initial research, a formal collaboration with sanofi, or a licensing agreement depending on investigators’ progress, Dr. Melese explained.
Last November UCSF and Pfizer formed a partnership focused on target validation. The deal could net UCSF as much as $85 million over five years, including milestone payments as well as research-support funding.
Pfizer is slashing R&D spending to between $8 billion and $8.5 billion this year and between $6.5 billion and $7 billion in 2012. Yet at Mission Bay, Pfizer is preparing to open, later this year, a Center for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) for joint research with the university.
“The CTI-San Francisco is anticipating starting five to eight projects each year with researchers at UCSF during the first three years of an initial five-year partnership,” Pfizer and UCSF have noted.
Near Mission Bay, UCSF’s Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center (VDDC) earlier this year saw its funding renewed by another corporate sponsor, Abbott Diagnostics. In addition to funds, Abbott also provides viral samples for use in VDDC’s research in return for commercial rights to discoveries produced at the center. Both sides reason that the viral research is so early-stage it is unlikely to win NIH funding.
Where UCSF has identified a corporate partner it wants to collaborate with in the future but has yet to identify the specifics of research, Dr. Melese explained that the university will sign a master-sponsored research agreement. UCSF has 16 such arrangements with companies that include Bayer HealthCare and Genentech.