Business is one of the top five priorities set by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, and this means more than just running an efficient operation. It also signifies the importance of keeping the door open to partnering with business and industry.

Genentech Hall and Koret Quad at UCSF Mission Bay

Several programs to advance these partnerships are already underway, while new approaches that are compatible with the current economic climate are evolving. 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.

The changes are primarily through the Industry Contracts Division of the UCSF Office of Sponsored Research, but parallel efforts are ongoing at the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), which is headquartered on the UCSF Mission Bay campus. And those efforts are echoed in new approaches at the schools of medicine and pharmacy, and at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

At QB3, industry partnerships drive much of the innovation, with the University looking for ways to stimulate business, and business looking to collaborate with scientists and tap the University’s cutting-edge research.

The many industry partnerships across the campus include:

  • Pfizer:  Anew 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: Now a member of the Roche Group pharmaceutical company, Genentech has more than 15 research collaborations with UCSF across several therapeutic areas. Among the most recent is UCSF’s Small Molecule Discovery Center, part of the UCSF School of Pharmacy and affiliated with QB3. Under a 2010 partnership agreement, Genentech will support the work of several UCSF researchers, with both funding and research acumen in neuroscience, and the two teams will work together to discover and develop drug candidates for neurodegenerative diseases.
  • GE Healthcare:  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. 
  • Nikon Instruments and Technical Instruments:  The UCSF Nikon Imaging Center at QB3 shows how industry partnerships can bring high-end, cutting-edge equipment to the University. In this case, 10 companies led by Nikon have donated approximately $2.3 million in microscopes and other devices to a joint QB3-UCSF School of Medicine facility for light microscopy.
  • Abbott Diagnostics: A multiyear, collaborative agreement between UCSF and Abbott led to the UCSF Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center – based on the ViroChip work done by UCSF Professor Joseph DeRisi, PhD, and colleagues – that focuses on detection and 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.