Sanofi-Aventis has entered into a collaboration with Columbia University Medical Center to develop diabetes drugs.

The three-year pact, which is specifically with the laboratory of Gerard Karsenty, will investigate the role of the osteoblast-secreted peptide, osteocalcin, in diabetes management. In 2007, Dr Karsenty and colleagues published a paper which revealed that bone-forming cells called osteoblasts produce osteocalcin, a hormone that influences blood sugar levels and fat deposition.  

Sanofi says that the findings "opened the door for an entirely new area of exploration for novel pathways, targets and therapies directed toward metabolic disorders, including diabetes". Under the terms of the deal, the French drugmaker will sponsor research in Dr Karsenty's laboratory and has an option to license existing patents and results that may arise from the research into potential diabetes treatments. Financial terms have not been disclosed.

Ocular disease pact with Vision Institute

The Colombia link-up comes a day after Sanofi's ophthalmology division Fovea Pharmaceuticals and the Vision Institute (Institut de la Vision), one of the main eye disease research centres in Europe, sealed a deal to look at ocular diseases.  

Under the terms of the three-year agreement, Sanofi will be given priority access to the technological platforms of the Vision Institute. It will specifically focus on the areas of regeneration of the optical nerve, vascular biology, inflammation and gene therapy in various eye tissues.

Sanofi chief executive Christopher Viehbacher said the collaboration will "encourage the sharing of technical expertise and know-how with the objective to deliver innovative therapies for people with visual impairment and supports our ambition to build a global offer in ophthalmology".

Fovea has three products in Phase II aimed at treating persistent allergic form of conjunctivitis, acute macular oedema following retinal vein occlusion and chronic macular oedema due to diabetic retinopathy. The fourth, RetinoStat, a gene-based treatment partnered with Oxford BioMedica, is currently in Phase I for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration.