News Feature | April 4, 2014

Biogen Idec And Whitehead Institute Collaborate For Drug Research Project

By Marcus Johnson

The Whitehead Institute is partnering with biotechnology firm Biogen Idec. In this arrangement, Biogen will provide $5.2 million to Whitehead Institute to fund up to five different research projects in the fields of neurology, immunology, developmental biology, and genetics. It is expected that the projects will run for the next three years. This new collaboration with Biogen Idec will mark the first time that a biotechnology company will be working with Whitehead in several areas.  

The collaborative effort will create closer ties between academic and industry scientists. According to The Boston Globe, these types of collaborative projects are increasing because of the government reducing the size and availability of funds for scientific research. David Page, Whitehead's director, believes that these types of projects are the future of scientific research. “It points to the future of where the support of basic research institutions may go,” said Page. “Biogen Idec is stepping forward and saying it’s time for the biopharmaceutical industry to support the very institutions that drew them to this city.”

The Whitehead Institute used to get over half of its revenue from federal grants ten years ago, but that number is down to 25-30 percent today. Royalties, licensing fees, corporate support, and grants from private foundations, such as Howard Hughes Medical Institute, are also key for providing Whitehead with the necessary funds.

Michael Ringel, whose Boston Consulting Group focuses on the healthcare industry, also believes that connection between academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies is a good one. “There’s a natural synergy between academia and pharma in understanding disease and developing new drug ,” said Ringel. “If you’re an academic institution and one of the things you want is to get medicines to patients… you can’t do it without the expertise that pharma companies bring.”