The development of UCSF’s Mission Bay campus gave the University a rare opportunity to build space for the sort of partnerships that help drive top-notch research, innovation, education and patient care. At Mission Bay, UCSF boasts partnerships both with industry and with other academic institutions, all in the service of the University’s broader mission of advancing health worldwide™.

Industry was certainly ready to partner with UCSF. The University has a long history of working with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, dating to the birth of the biotech industry when UCSF research spawned Genentech in the 1970s.

Many innovative partnerships are already formed, thanks to the early successes of facilities such as the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and QB3, the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, as well as the recent arrival of pharmaceutical industry heavyweights such as Bayer, Celgene and Merck to the Mission Bay neighborhood.

But the partnerships are not merely between academia and industry. Sometimes the partners are research and academic organizations.

The J. David Gladstone Institutes is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research foundation affiliated with UCSF and located adjacent to UCSF Mission Bay. Primary research efforts at the Gladstone Institutes focus on three of the most important clinical problems of modern times: cardiovascular disease, AIDS and neurodegenerative disorders.

Gladstone researchers also hold faculty appointments at UCSF. In just one example of the collaboration, neurologists at UCSF are teaming with Gladstone researchers, faculty from UC Davis and members of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America Northern California Chapter to conduct the largest complete human genome disease association study to date, seeking to identify genes and novel drug targets related to the onset and progression of Huntington’s disease.

Just across the Bay Bridge from Mission Bay is the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center in Emeryville, also known as the Gallo Center, which is one of the world’s preeminent academic centers for the study of the biological basis of alcohol and substance abuse. The Gallo Center is affiliated with the UCSF Department of Neurology, and researchers there have already discovered many molecular, cellular and neuronal mechanisms that underlie alcoholism and substance abuse. Gallo researchers work closely with UCSF neuroscientists at Mission Bay.

QB3 brings academics from various environments together to solve problems. Its Knowledge Brokers program connects QB3 researchers who have complementary interests. For example, it brought bioinformaticists from UC Santa Cruz together with cancer surgeons and oncologists from UCSF to conduct research that will improve treatment for patients with breast cancer. Its scientists also connect through shared facilities such as the Small Molecule Discovery Center and through multicampus research programs such as the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center.

“When scientists collaborate, they can extract greater value from their individual research programs at little additional cost,” says Regis B. Kelly, PhD, director of QB3 and former executive vice chancellor of UCSF.

The establishment of QB3, a consortium of UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, based at Mission Bay, has attracted the attention of industry. “There’s always at least one major company coming through here,” Kelly says, ticking off the names GE Healthcare, Pfizer, Novartis and others. “There’s a huge crisis in big pharma right now, and they need to look at the early sources of innovation. That’s why everyone comes to us.”

Examples of the dividends coming from such partnerships include:

  • A new 2010 partnership between UCSF and Pfizer, Inc. is designed to substantially reduce the time required to translate promising biomedical research into new medications and therapies for patients.  The agreement represents $85 million in research support and milestone payments for UCSF over the next five years if the collaboration leads to development of significant new therapies for diseases with high unmet medical need.  
  • Genentech, a wholly owned member of the pharmaceutical giant Roche Group, has more than 15 research collaborations with UCSF across several therapeutic areas. In one project, Genentech supports, with both funding and expertise, several researchers in UCSF’s Small Molecule Discovery Center, which is part of the UCSF School of Pharmacy and is affiliated with QB3.  The company will collaborate with UCSF to identify small molecules, with the ultimate goal of developing a drug candidate that could net UCSF $13 million plus royalties, on top of the money Genentech is already investing.
  • The formation of the Surbeck Laboratory for Advanced Imaging at Byers Hall on the Mission Bay campus in 2005 enhanced the long term collaboration between UCSF and GE Healthcare with regard to the development of novel magnetic resonance imaging technologies.  In November 2010, this relationship led to the first use in humans of a new technology that monitors changes in hyperpolarized pyruvate, a naturally occurring sugar that cells produce during metabolism, in order to rapidly assess the aggressiveness of a tumor by imaging its metabolism. The technique has the potential for dramatically changing treatment for many types of tumors by providing immediate feedback to clinicians on whether a therapy is working. 
  • Ten companies led by Nikon Instruments and Technical Instruments have donated approximately $2.3 million in high-end, cutting-edge microscopes and other devices to the UCSF Nikon Imaging Center at QB3, a joint QB3-UCSF School of Medicine facility for light microscopy.
  • Abbott Diagnostics, through a multiyear, collaborative agreement with UCSF, helped establish the UCSF Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center — based on the ViroChip work done by UCSF Professor Joseph DeRisi, PhD, and colleagues — which focuses on discovery of novel viruses associated with acute and chronic human illnesses. Researchers anticipate further partnerships that will help unlock the viral causes of unexplained acute illnesses such as respiratory infections, gastroenteritis and encephalitis, as well as chronic illnesses such as cancer.

QB3 works with companies big and small, and even manages Mission Bay Capital (MBC), an independent venture fund.  MBC helps connect savvy investors with the world-class research taking place in University labs. In the past few years, UCSF has put a renewed emphasis on working with industry in an effort to expedite translational medicine, a trend that has accelerated under UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, former president of product development at Genentech.

In the past two years, UCSF has revamped and streamlined its approach to industry partnerships to help move research more quickly and strategically from the laboratory to clinical trials and patient treatment.

“As a leader in biomedical research, UCSF is committed to the translation of research into clinical applications that improve the lives of individuals worldwide,” says Erik Lium, PhD, UCSF assistant vice chancellor for research. “As our mission depends, in part, on our ability to collaborate with industry, we have taken concrete steps to facilitate these collaborations. As a result, even during these tough economic times, we continue to successfully form innovative relationships with industry partners.”