Salk Forms Stem Cell Partnership With Sanofi-Aventis

3/26/09Follow @bvbigelow

The Salk Institute says it has formed a new stem cell research partnership with Sanofi-Aventis, the international pharmaceutical giant based in Paris. Financial terms of the five-year alliance were not disclosed, and some details of the deal remain to be worked out, Salk spokesman Mauricio Minotta told me this afternoon.

The Sanofi-Aventis regenerative medicine program will sponsor grants in promising research areas, and is intended to provide long-term, multi-participant collaborations between scientists at San Diego-based Salk and Sanofi-Aventis. “It’s meant to be a true collaboration, it’s not just funding,” says Michael White, who oversees the institute’s office of technology management and development. Sanofi-Aventis has about 16,000 employees in the United States, mostly at its U.S. headquarters in Bridgewater, NJ, and about 100,000 employees worldwide.

The program also will provide unrestricted support for the Salk Institute’s stem cell facility, which was created as a separate laboratory supported by private funding during the years the Bush Administration had placed restrictions on federal stem cell funding.

In a statement, Salk president William Brody says there are no preconditions concerning the collaborative alliance. “Our scientists will continue to freely explore cutting-edge research and publish their work,” Brody says. (That’s important to academic freedom, because companies have been known to try to squelch research findings if they don’t support the company’s marketing message.) Under this deal, Salk will also gain access to “extensive resources” at Sanofi-Aventis, which includes a large-scale facility in Tucson, AZ, for screening compounds with potential to be new drugs.

“That’s something that’s very attractive to us, to be able to screen our targets with their drugs,”White says.

Such industry collaborations could be a sign of the times. In January, San Diego’s Burnham Institute for Medical Research announced a multi-year agreement with Johnson & Johnson’s Pharmaceutical Research and Development unit.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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