Covance has signed a four-year agreement with two offshoots of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) that will see the US-based company lend its drug discovery and development expertise to selected early-stage research projects.

The scientific collaboration agreement is with Inserm Transfert SA, the French institute’s technology transfer subsidiary, and Inserm Transfert Initiative, its seed investment company.

Covance will conduct discovery and early development studies, drawing on its global resources including facilities in Porcheville, France and Alnwick, UK, for projects managed by Inserm Transfert, as well as preclinical trials for start-up companies in the Inserm Transfert Initiative portfolio.

The Inserm Transfert Initiative start-ups will also gain access to the scientific, operational and programme-management expertise offered by Covance across all areas of drug discovery and development.

As part of the agreement, Covance will advise both Inserm Transfert and Inserm Transfert Initiative on which of their projects could most benefit from the US company’s drug discovery and drug development capabilities.

Natural partners

 “We consider state-of-the-art CROs (contract research organisations) as natural partners for academic innovation in health and medicine,” commented Cécile Tharaud, chief executive officer of Inserm Transfert.

“Our collaboration with Covance will help in proving the value or lowering the risk of early-stage projects, hopefully all the way through [to] IND (investigational new drug) application.”