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MIT and Amgen Ink 10-Year Pact

By Sarah Y. Keightley
Executive Editor

On Tuesday, the Institute and Amgen, a biotechnology company, announced their agreement for a decade-long partnership.

Amgen will fund research efforts at MIT -- giving up to $3 million a year for 10 years -- in exchange for some patent and technology licensing rights on this research, according to a press release. The company will use the research results to develop and manufacture pharmaceutical products.

Both sides are pleased with the collaborative arrangement.

"This agreement with Amgen represents an essential element in the kind of future I see for MIT -- a synergy of basic research efforts at universities and long-term commitments by industry," said President Charles M. Vest in the press release.

"We are enthusiastic about this promising collaboration, which could serve as a model for industry-academia partnerships," said Gordon Binder, Amgen's chairman and chief executive officer, in the press release.

Agreement is `a definite plus'

Director for the Center of Cancer Research Richard O. Hynes PhD '71 said that this collaborative effort is similar to others that have been made between university scientists and corporations. "Faculty talk to companies all the time," he said.

Still, this agreement is unique because it is department-wide, and the donation is quite large, Hynes said.

"I think it's a good thing -- a definite plus," Hynes said. "We'll see more arrangements likes this. ... Relationships with companies are very healthy," he said. Because government funding is rising too slowly, industry funding helps cover the increased expenses and enables more research projects to be carried out, he said.

"This university-industry collaboration will advance the already rapid pace of scientific discoveries in biology and other sciences," Vest said.

Scientists can make discoveries, but "we can't develop them to a point" where the public can use them, Hynes said. This is where the pharmaceutical companies can take the idea and develop it, he said.

The partnership between academia and industry is "beneficial to both [sides] and the public in that it leads to increased transfer of technology to the public," Hynes said.

Terms of the agreement

In the agreement, Amgen will donate up to $3 million a year for up to 10 years. MIT researchers who are funded with this money can initiate their own projects and can publish articles on their work, though Amgen has some patent and technology licensing rights to the results.

"MIT and Amgen will jointly hold patents that are the result of joint inventive efforts," said Provost Mark S. Wrighton.

Moreover, Amgen scientists can come to MIT as visiting scientists.

To determine which projects will receive Amgen funding, faculty will have to apply to a committee chaired by the Dean of Science Robert J. Birgeneau, said Hynes, who will also be on the committee.

In addition, the committee includes Head of the Department of Biology Phillip A. Sharp, Head of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Emilio Bizzi, Director of the Whitehead Institute Gerald R. Fink, and Head of the Department of Chemistry Robert J. Silbey.

The money is "not completely unrestricted" because Amgen will want to spend its money on research they find interesting and useful, Hynes said.

Amgen is a global biotechnology company based in Thousand Oaks, Calif. that uses current biological advances to develop pharmaceutical products.

According to an article in Tech Talk, Amgen was founded in 1980, and one of the four founders was Professor Emeritus Raymond F. Baddour ScD '49.

Sharp will be MIT's manager of the partnership.