In the past, clinics and pharmaceutical companies have often worked on the same projects, but not necessarily together. Data was exchanged, and in the end, the results, too, but there was rarely real cooperation. That’s in the process of changing: The Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Sanofi pharmaceuticals embarked on a new path in June 2010. Joint ideas and topics, joint research, joint day-to-day work – that’s the framework for their cooperation. And the partners have just recently opened their first joint laboratory, near the Charité hospital in Berlin Mitte.
Collective research on strokes and diabetes
Here, researchers on both sides are studying strokes. This is one of five research fields for cooperation that were evident after roughly 25 conferences. Additional areas for future cooperation are rheumatism, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and regenerative medicine.
The preconceptions from each side about science and business were the mutual partners’ greatest challenges. For example, the Sanofi researchers were concerned that their colleagues at the Charité would be exclusively focused on fundamental research. The Charité scientists, on the other hand, were worried they would receive too many guidelines from the industry and would perhaps have less freedom to conduct research. “But these preconceptions were swept away after the first meeting,” said Professor Jochen Maas, Research and Development Managing Director at Sanofi Germany GmbH. “We work differently. But the realization that both methods of work contribute to the project has taken hold.” That is a big step. And Prof. Maas is already looking forward: “My vision is that, in the end, it will no longer be evident which employee works for which employer.”
The idea for cooperation emerged at the World Health Summit
It is hardly surprising that the idea came about in Berlin. “An institution the size of the Charité is one-of-a-kind in Germany,” said Prof. Maas. There are many renowned scientists here - and a high number of patients, too.“ In relation to other German university clinics, we have the most patients with the most diagnoses,” said Dr. Wolfram von Pannwitz, Head of the Charité’s Division Corporate Development. And the partners have Berlin, the location, to thank for the cooperation: Here, at the World Health Summit, Prof. Karl Max Einhäupl, Charité CEO, and Chris Viehbacher, Sanofi CEO, first spoke about the possibilities for such an alliance.
“More than 80% of innovative products are discovered outside the walls of pharmaceutical companies,” said Prof. Maas. “And the Charité scientists have great ideas.” Both sides are not only interested in good ideas, but rather much more in their practical use. “Our goal is to develop applicable innovative products,” said Dr. von Pannwitz. Professor Maas agrees: “A good idea is only worth something if a molecule emerges from it.”
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Sanofi pharmaceuticals has roughly 105,000 employees in 110 countries, including Germany. The company is based in Paris.