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Academia and Industry Partnerships—Creating a Seamless Fit (Part I)

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Friday, June 2, 2017

Though their organizations are quite different, the shared goal partners in an academia-industry life sciences alliance is to find a cure to address the disease, emphasized Mark Coflin, CSAP, an oncologist and head of alliance management at Shire Pharmaceutical, during a candid, rapid-fire discussion on the cultural differences between academia and industry. Coflin kicked off a session featuring several panelists  discussing “Making the Most of Industry-Academia Collaborations” during thePartnering for Performance in Life Sciences” track at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” Feb. 28-March 2 in San Diego, Calif.

 

Joining Coflin on the panel was Paula Norris, PhD, laboratory director and project manager at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP); Sarah Hudson, PhD, a biochemist, organic chemist, and associate director of R&D projects and operations at SBP; Joe Sypek, PhD, director and external science lead, comparative immunology at Shire Pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceutical company is dedicated to creating specialized medicines for patients with rare diseases.

 

Coflin opened the discussion with a major consideration for this kind of partnership: “From the science side, when you’re handed a project, if you haven’t been involved from the beginning, it’s difficult,” he offered. “Having someone on the alliance side helps a lot.”  Coflin said he has managed some one-off projects, but for the most part, his target institutions are involved with pediatric research where he is responsible for putting agreements together.

 

Sypek’s role at Shire is to identify and foster new academic alliance partnerships. This complex of new partnerships, in turn, feeds the early-discovery stage pipeline in the rare disease space within discovery biology and transitional research.  Shire’s milestone-based agreements are tied to contingent payments for each gene target if specified research, regulatory, clinical development, commercialization, and sales milestone events occur.

 

“We’ve tried other models,” Sypek said. “Each institution has nuances. Each has upfront money and needs money to start up. So, we start with initial payments and set the budget, year to year.”

 

“We do milestones because we need to get meaningful data.  We want data that is robust and statistically significant. If it doesn’t work out, the principle investigator (PI) can take the project and partner with someone else,” Sypek continued. “Treatments are an internal project that require regular lab meetings. Both parties must be committed to getting to goals, but all projects have regular meetings where we try to pour all necessary resources together for success.”

 

When setting up a team, if it doesn’t have a molecule, Shire might outsource and pay for its development, even if it’s outside of the budget.  In 2012, Shire entered a broad, three-year research collaboration in rare diseases with Boston Children’s Hospital, and since then has expanded to other pediatric hospitals. 

 

“Shire’s plan is to cast a broad net to get the best of the best to target the disease. That’s what the intentions are, but what are the challenges?” Sypek asked.

 

“Central to the challenges are the cultural differences between academia and industry. But the goal for both parties is to find a cure to address the disease,” Sypek concluded. “You can work for years in a lab, but it’s the research collaboration that allows a breakthrough [to be] possible. Today, academia seeks out industry partners. The boundary walls are not as high as they use to be. They are more in tune to working with industry. NIH budgets can be tight, and there are always questions about what might happen to funding. That’s where industry might be able to step in and fund research and materials.”

Part II of this blog post focuses on Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute’s perspective on academic-industry partnerships. 

Tags:  academia  alliance  Boston Children’s Hospital  collaboration  Joe Sypek  partner  Paula Norris  pediatric research  research  Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute  Sarah Hudson  Shire Pharmaceuticals 

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