French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis is tapping into ivy-league brains across the Atlantic under a research collaboration with Harvard University designed to “advance knowledge in the area of human health through basic and applied research”.

Under the alliance, the Paris, France-headquartered group will stump up cash to fund certain projects across multiple therapeutic areas including cancer, diabetes and inflammation, proposed by scientists at the University and considered by a Joint Scientific Steering Committee to hold the greatest promise.

Specific details were not disclosed, but Sanofi’s financial muscle will provide researchers at Harvard with “focused, flexible and rapidly available support” to enable research projects aiming to develop innovative healthcare solutions in areas of high need to get off the ground, while giving the drugmaker the opportunity to reap the potential of any discoveries made.

Sanofi itself has made no secret of its plans to hook up with academic partners and biotechnology groups to bolster its own research efforts in the quest for new medicines, and the tie-up will give the firm ready access to a new pool of experienced biomedical research talent and the chance to cherry-pick projects for further development.

“Our relationship with Harvard underscores sanofi-aventis’ approach of leveraging our innovative internal resources while actively engaging a range of external partners to develop healthcare solutions,” said Marc Cluzel, executive vice-president of R&D at Sanofi, and added that the firm is hopeful that promoting open scientific exchange between Harvard’s leading biological researchers and the company’s drug development hub “will drive significant healthcare advances”.

The deal is another example of the growing trend of pharma-academia tie-ups as the industry struggles to fill its R&D pipelines and plug the gap left by the blockbusters of a bygone era. Pfizer, the world’s number one drugmaker, hooked up with Washington University in a five-year research partnership earlier this year, while Anglo-Swedish drug giant AstraZeneca signed a deal with University College of London’s Institute of Ophthalmology just last month, to name but a few.