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By Daniel S. Levine

Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) has entered into a research collaboration with Harvard University in the hopes of accelerating discoveries from the lab to the clinic. The translational research collaboration extends across several therapeutic areas including cancer, diabetes and inflammation.

Under the collaboration, Harvard University investigators will propose research projects across a wide range of areas. The funded projects will be selected by a Joint Scientific Steering Committee comprised of representatives of Sanofi-Aventis and Harvard. Projects will be awarded funding based on their scientific merit and potential to generate translational insight and value to biomedical research. The collaboration provides Sanofi-Aventis the opportunity to develop diagnostic, therapeutic and prognostic applications of discoveries made.

As part of the relationship with Harvard, Sanofi-Aventis will periodically evaluate technologies that may be of interest which are identified by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development. To further this exchange of ideas, Sanofi-Aventis will host an annual scientific forum that will bring together Sanofi and university researchers to share knowledge and opinions on relevant scientific matters and to review the progress of research projects funded through the collaboration.

Sanofi has been among the most aggressive of the big pharmaceutical companies in externalizing research. When Chris Viebacher took the helm as CEO in 2009, he was quite open about the need for the company to look beyond its own four walls for innovation and the need to tap into the best science around the world.

The company entered into a similar agreement in May with Charité University in Berlin and more recently entered into a 10-year, $2.2 billion agreement with the contract research organization Covance in the hopes of improving its R&D efficiency.

Like many other Big Pharmas, Sanofi is facing a patent cliff on key products with more than $12 billion in annual sales going off patent between 2010 and 2012. The moves by Sanofi represent a broader acknowledgement within the industry that Big Pharma can’t innovate itself out of its present predicament and that it will be able to get to new sources of revenue faster and cheaper by tapping into the expertise that surrounds it while concentrating on what it can do best.

Source: Sanofi-Aventis Enters Collaboration With Harvard in Effort to Externalize R&D