Genzyme and Cleveland Clinic Join in Multiple Sclerosis Effort

In the latest pharma-academia partnership, Genzyme and Cleveland Clinic researchers will align their efforts to better understand and treat multiple sclerosis.

Their new research collaboration will span at least five years and will be led by a steering committee of researchers from both organizations, Genzyme said. Initially, their work will focus on better understanding the pathology of MS and exploring new strategies for preventing and treating neurodegeneration associated with the disease.

A Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman said the health system also has other similar research and development agreements with pharmaceutical companies.

Genzyme markets Aubagio, a once-daily oral drug for relapsing forms of MS, and said in the announcement it’s committed to building a “sustainable pipeline of novel therapeutic approaches.” But that took a blow in December when the FDA rejected its late-stage drug candidate Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada). Genzyme has said it will resubmit for approval this quarter.

At the early-stage end of the pipeline, Cleveland Clinic is a likely partner because its Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis sees 20,000 patients a year and has a “highly innovative and active research team,” Genzyme said.

The acquisition of Genzyme gave Sanofi more biotech products and expertise. Since then, Sanofi has done what a lot of other pharma companies have done—made cutbacks on its own internal research. And now the company is setting aside an increasing percentage of its $6.5 billion-a-year R&D budget for bets on collaborators doing edgy scientific work in universities and at biotech companies.