Looking outward to improve inwardly
May 2011
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


GAITHERSBURG, Md.—MedImmune, the global biologics business of AstraZeneca, and Inserm Transfert, the private subsidiary of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), have formed a three-year strategic collaboration aimed at advancing medical and pharmaceutical research across a range of therapeutic areas.
Financial details are not being released, but the parties note that their efforts will include research in the areas of oncology, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune diseases and other "emergent areas of opportunity." Drug discovery work, particularly the evaluation of potential drug candidates, is part of the agenda, but so too are the exploration of translational biology and the study of new disease mechanisms.
"This new relationship exemplifies our externalization strategy to invest in the best science, academic expertise and innovation while enhancing productivity and quality of discovery research outcomes," says Dr. Bahija Jallal, MedImmune's executive vice president of research and development.
Under the terms of the collaboration deal, decision-making will be governed by a joint steering committee, and MedImmune will fund projects to be executed with Inserm for both preclinical and clinical research. MedImmune will also "execute other activities to help identify promising approaches to advance drug candidates for patients with unmet medical needs," the companies note.
"Knowledge transfer today is about connecting excellence in academia and industry and building partnered teams to promote innovation," says Cécile Tharaud, CEO of Inserm Transfert. "MedImmune is a partner of choice and we are highly committed to building this strategic alliance with the potential to turn 'open innovation' concepts into novel therapeutic products to benefit patients."
The parties are set to proceed with 10 research projects that are said to maximize "Inserm's unique capability to conduct research by blended physician/biologist teams, and their unparalleled link to patient populations and understanding of human diseases." Other research projects besides the initial 10 are being evaluated, though nothing is concrete yet on that front.
Atul Saran, MedImmune's senior vice president of corporate development and ventures, tells ddn that while his company has worked with Inserm before in various ways, this is their first foray into a broad collaboration together.
"MedImmune is part of AstraZeneca and, as a pure-play pharma, is intensely focused on finding the best science we can and making deep investments into R&D to bring medicines to patients with unmet need," Saran says. "We've looked at various ways to do that and one way has been to look externally at the best collaborations we can find. We've done that on an ad hoc basis with scientists at different institutions but we've been looking to get into a broader collaboration and drive that in a more structured way, and Inserm gave us that opportunity."
Through this collaboration, MedImmune will also have the distinction of being one of only 10 strategic partners among Inserm's roughly 500 collaborators. This bodes well for MedImmune's work, reputation and continued advancement, note Jallal and Saran, as Inserm is strongly associated with universities and hospitals, with operations in 316 laboratories. It also is tied to 54 clinical investigation centers representing a workforce of around 13,000, which includes approximately 8,000 direct Inserm employees, some 3,000 university hospital personnel and more than 1,400 foreign research scientists.
"This is very purposeful effort we are embarking on," Jallal tells ddn. "We didn't just wake up and decide to do this—we very much want to be in a position to help Inserm and advance our own efforts at the same time. It is so much part of the culture that we try to build here. We don't have the lock on scientific innovations and we know we need to look beyond our walls and not put up barriers. We always do that, but now is the right time with our pipeline and our science to do something truly innovative and team up with Inserm on something both broad and deep."
"We are very honored and pleased to establish such a strategic collaboration with MedImmune," noted Prof. André Syrota, chairman and CEO of Inserm, in an official statement. "Its cutting-edge R&D focused on biologics is an ideal fit with the expertise and missions of Inserm. We are confident that we will benefit from the strong support of our translational and clinical research efforts to foster discovery of new targets in therapy areas with high unmet medical needs."
Code: E051108

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