Sanofi-Aventis has formed a strategic alliance with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Biomedical Innovation in the US to advance knowledge of human health through basic and applied research and to promote scientific exchange between the company and MIT.

The partnership, to be known as the Sanofi-Aventis Biomedical Innovation Program (SABIP), will support a number of activities over the next three years by granting Biomedical Innovation Funding Awards. The focus will be on nanotechnology and biologic-based drug therapies, with the aim of providing integrated, patient-focused healthcare options.

Claude Canizares, vice president for research and associate provost at MIT, said it was a “special time in the history of biomedical sciences and technology” at MIT and elsewhere. “We are seeing an incredible convergence of research talent, with engineers working side by side with molecular biologists and scientists and also to some extent with our economists and managerial experts, who are thinking about healthcare from many points of view.”

Dr Marc Cluzel, executive vice president, R&D for Sanofi-Aventis, admitted that biologics “has not been a strength of ours in the past” but stressed the importance of investing in the relevant expertise and intellectual know-how at a time when “we are at the beginning of a bioengineering revolution – cell therapies, regenerative medicine, nanotechnology”.

Sanofi-Aventis will have the opportunity to develop therapeutic, diagnostic and prognostic applications based on the discoveries made during the alliance, the new partners noted. Funding awards under the programme will provide MIT researchers with “focused, flexible and rapidly available support” for innovative research projects geared to potential healthcare solutions.

“As Sanofi-Aventis continues to transform the focus beyond pharmaceuticals to patient healthcare integrated solutions, collaborations like SABIP that promote the exchange of scientific knowledge between academia and industry will play a key role,” Cluzel commented.