Bio-X teams up with Sanofi-Aventis for research

April 26, 2011, 2:04 a.m.

The Bio-X program at Stanford and Sanofi-Aventis recently announced a collaboration agreement on biomedical research. A joint committee of Bio-X and Sanofi-Aventis scientists will determine up to five projects to fund every year, and research fellows will be exchanged between the company and the University.

“Practically, we have a structured agreement with Stanford Bio-X, and that’s the start,” said Sylvaine Cases, director of external innovation for Sanofi-Aventis. “But for us, this is a vehicle to really establish a dialogue and open Sanofi-Aventis to what is happening at Stanford and vice versa.”

The Bio-X program at Stanford focuses on interdisciplinary research combining the efforts of engineers, computer scientists, physicists and other experts on biomedical research questions. Sanofi-Aventis is a large pharmaceutical company based in Paris and New York.

The multi-year move represents an ongoing effort by Stanford to collaborate with industry players, especially in areas of science and technology. The medical school research community has especially strong industry partnerships.

“Stanford has had a long, long history of entering into collaboration with companies,” said Chris Scott, senior researcher of biomedical ethics at the School of Medicine. “We’ve done it both with pharmaceutical companies, from small biotech companies on projects that range from drug discovery to clinical trials. So this certainly isn’t a new arrangement.”

The collaboration was spearheaded by the San Diego office of Sanofi-Aventis, which focuses on making connections at universities on the West Coast, and has done so with a number of academic institutions. Of these connections, Stanford will only be the second to exchange fellows, after the UC-San Francisco.

“It’s something I would have dreamed of doing when I was a student a long time ago,” said Remi Brouard, vice president of external innovation for Sanofi-Aventis.

The collaboration will bring Sanofi-Aventis’ expertise in turning research into therapies, hopefully streamlining the process from bench to bedside.

“We’re certainly optimistic because we bring a know-how and knowledge of translating things, and so our goal is really to work together and bring that know-how into projects, and I think Bio-X shares that,” Cases said. “Everyone wants to turn things faster for the patient. We really need these.”

Stanford’s industry relations have recently come into the spotlight with the current Supreme Court case against Roche Holding AG over intellectual property rights of a jointly claimed discovery related to HIV diagnostics and with the medical school’s move to declare conflicts of interests among their faculty members.

Existing agreements usually maintain Stanford’s intellectual property rights over the researcher’s rights in discoveries, but they also involve incentives for industry, such as exclusive rights to market the discovery or the right to first look at the discoveries.

The details of this particular agreement could not be determined as Sanofi-Aventis does not discuss the financial or intellectual property elements of these contracts and Bio-X could not comment on the agreement.

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