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MedImmune and Inserm form strategic collaboration around research into oncology, respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune diseases

Jeffrey Bouley
GAITHERSBURG, Md.—MedImmune, the global biologics businessof AstraZeneca, and Inserm Transfert, the private subsidiary of the FrenchNational Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), have formed athree-year strategic collaboration aimed at advancing medical andpharmaceutical research across a range of therapeutic areas.Financial details are not being released, but the partiesnote that their efforts will include research in the areas of oncology,respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune diseases and other "emergent areas ofopportunity." Drug discovery work, particularly the evaluation of potentialdrug candidates, is part of the agenda, but so too are the exploration oftranslational biology and the study of new disease mechanisms.
 
"This new relationship exemplifies our externalizationstrategy to invest in the best science, academic expertise and innovation whileenhancing productivity and quality of discovery research outcomes," says Dr.Bahija Jallal, MedImmune's executive vice president of research anddevelopment.
 
Under the terms of the collaboration deal, decision-makingwill be governed by a joint steering committee, and MedImmune will fundprojects to be executed with Inserm for both preclinical and clinical research.MedImmune will also "execute other activities to help identify promisingapproaches to advance drug candidates for patients with unmet medical needs,"the companies note.
 
"Knowledge transfer today is about connecting excellence inacademia and industry and building partnered teams to promote innovation," saysCécile Tharaud, CEO of Inserm Transfert. "MedImmune is a partner of choice andwe are highly committed to building this strategic alliance with the potentialto turn 'open innovation' concepts into novel therapeutic products to benefitpatients."
 
The parties are set to proceed with 10 research projectsthat are said to maximize "Inserm's unique capability to conduct research byblended physician/biologist teams, and their unparalleled link to patientpopulations and understanding of human diseases."Other research projects besides the initial 10 are beingevaluated, though nothing is concrete yet on that front.
 
Atul Saran, MedImmune's senior vice president of corporatedevelopment and ventures, tells ddn thatwhile his company has worked with Inserm before in various ways, this is theirfirst foray into a broad collaboration together.
 
"MedImmune is part of AstraZeneca and, as a pure-playpharma, is intensely focused on finding the best science we can and making deepinvestments into R&D to bring medicines to patients with unmet need," Saransays. "We've looked at various ways to do that and one way has been to lookexternally at the best collaborations we can find. We've done that on an adhoc basis with scientists at differentinstitutions but we've been looking to get into a broader collaboration anddrive that in a more structured way, and Inserm gave us that opportunity."
 
Through this collaboration, MedImmune will also have thedistinction of being one of only 10 strategic partners among Inserm's roughly500 collaborators. This bodes well for MedImmune's work, reputation andcontinued advancement, note Jallal and Saran, as Inserm is strongly associatedwith universities and hospitals, with operations in 316 laboratories. It alsois tied to 54 clinical investigation centers representing a workforce of around13,000, which includes approximately 8,000 direct Inserm employees, some 3,000university hospital personnel and more than 1,400 foreign research scientists.
 
"This is very purposeful effort we are embarking on," Jallaltells ddn. "We didn't just wake up anddecide to do this—we very much want to be in a position to help Inserm andadvance our own efforts at the same time. It is so much part of the culturethat we try to build here. We don't have the lock on scientific innovations andwe know we need to look beyond our walls and not put up barriers. We always dothat, but now is the right time with our pipeline and our science to dosomething truly innovative and team up with Inserm on something both broad anddeep."
 
"We are very honored and pleased to establish such astrategic collaboration with MedImmune," noted Prof. André Syrota, chairman andCEO of Inserm, in an official statement. "Its cutting-edge R&D focused onbiologics is an ideal fit with the expertise and missions of Inserm. We areconfident that we will benefit from the strong support of our translational andclinical research efforts to foster discovery of new targets in therapy areaswith high unmet medical needs."

Jeffrey Bouley

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