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University-Industry Engagement Week

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University-industry collaborations aspire to pharmaceutical innovation

Three collaborations have been established in the United Kingdom in recent weeks that illustrate a growing collaborative atmosphere and new strategies being used to link university research with pharma companies seeking to build their product pipelines.

The largest of these efforts will see Danish drug giant Novo Nordisk invest up to £115 million over 10 years in a new research center at the University of Oxford. The center will employ up to 100 Novo Nordisk researchers, who will work together with Oxford scientists to develop innovative treatments for type 2 diabetes.

“Oxford is the right partner for Novo Nordisk because it will allow for a broader set of skills, data sources and academic collaboration within world-class research,” a company spokesperson said. “Co-creating early-stage research projects is not something we have done to a great extent. Therefore, the establishment of this new research center allows for more focused early stage research in type 2 diabetes.”

One issue that has bedeviled these collaborations in the past is who controls the intellectual property (IP). In this new partnership, Novo Nordisk will own research conducted internally at the research center, but IP originating from collaborations between Oxford and Novo researchers “will be co-owned and governed by agreements made on a case-by-case basis.”

Embedding industry scientists is the university research lab in high-value corporate partnerships is becoming an increasingly popular strategy, comments Kieron Flanagan from the Alliance Manchester Business School. A similar strategic collaborations in the UK involves drugmaker AstraZeneca and the University of Cambridge. Flanagan also highlights similar efforts involving the University of Manchester, including oil giant BP’s International Centre for Advanced Materials and another with agroscience firm Syngenta. ‘It’s more about building the connection to leading-edge research in the university, but also to people, and to supply researchers that the company might need in the future,’ he observes.

Additional collaborations include a partnership between Heptares Therapeutics and the University of Cambridge, focused on discovering novel apelin-modulating molecules for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. And that’s just one program in a £5 million overall academic partnership initiative.

A third recent deal involves Cancer Research Technology (CRT), Cancer Research UK (CRUK)’s commercial arm, working with Tusk Therapeutics, an immuno-oncology start-up out of University College London (UCL). Tusk will receive an exclusive worldwide license from CRT to develop and commercialize therapeutic antibodies against a target that plays a key role in immune suppression in cancer.

When the pre-clinical phase of the collaboration ends, Tusk “will assume responsibility for accelerating the progress of selected antibody candidates into the clinic.” CRT will receive an upfront payment, plus performance-based milestones and royalty payments, which will be shared with UCL.

CRT’s chief scientific officer Clive Stanway says this is one of many similar arrangements with industry partners. Typically CRUK takes ownership of any IP as a condition of its research funding, which CRT then commercializes, with 50% of any revenue going to the institution involved. The approach has led to five marketed drugs, and 30 that are currently in pre-clinical development and clinical trials. Although the commercial angle sometimes delays publishing research, it’s usually possible to avoid that by separating out sensitive IP to pursue academic and commercial goals in parallel.

Source: Chemistry World

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week