Healthcare News

Roche Joins Forces With Massachusetts General Hospital And Harvard University To Se Pioneering Stem Cell Technologies For Drug Discovery

March 10, 2017

Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) announced a 3-5 year joint research collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, USA) and Harvard University (Cambridge, USA) that will use stem cell technologies to advance drug discovery in areas of high unmet medical need.

The aim is to develop cellular models of disease based on human stem cell lines and to investigate the potential efficacy, safety and toxicology profile of new drug candidates from Roche's compound library. Cell lines will be derived from the tissues of healthy volunteers and from patients with various diseases.

Under the terms of the agreement, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University and Roche will collaborate across a broad range of disease areas, with an initial focus on metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease. Roche will gain access to cell lines, protocols, data and materials in exchange for research funding over 3-5 years, with clinical development milestone payments for drug candidates discovered through stem cell disease models. A staff exchange program will promote sharing of expertise between the three partners and a joint governance committee will oversee research progress.

"As one of the most active pharmaceutical companies in this field, Roche will work with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard to ensure that all our leading experts bring the potential of stem cell research to fruition. This technology is like having a disease in a test tube and being able to test possible effects of drugs on 'virtual' patients - translational medicine at its best," said Jean-Jacques Garaud, Global Head of Roche Pharma Research and Early Development.

"The ability to generate cellular models of human cardiovascular disorders from human pluripotent stem cells is starting to revolutionize our approach to the discovery of new disease pathways and therapeutic strategies," said Kenneth Chien, MD, PhD, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cardiovascular Research Center. "This collaboration captures that potential at the interface of academia and biotechnology." Chien is also a Harvard Stem Cell Institute Principal Investigator.

"Stem cells are powerful tools for discovering new medical treatments and bridging the gap between the laboratory and the clinic. This collaboration will use our pioneering research to help deliver new ways of improving the lives of patients suffering from diseases that cannot currently be addressed," said Doug Melton, co-chair of Harvard University's Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology.

Roche and stem cell research

Roche is actively pursuing opportunities in stem cell research, both as a discovery tool and as a potential therapeutic modality with the aim of discovering novel ways of treating disease.

Link to the Roche position on stem cell research: click here.

Collaborations with external parties are a critical part of Roche's innovation strategy, and Roche has already established alliances with companies and institutions working on stem cell research. For example, in 2009 Roche formed a two-year collaboration with I-STEM aimed at discovering novel therapies to treat CNS diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety.

More information on the I-STEM collaboration: click here.