Sanofi is committed to collaborating with academic partners to quickly advance their novel discoveries into transformative medicines that benefit patients across the globe. The Sanofi Innovation Awards (iAwards) program, created in 2015 in the U.S., was specifically designed to do just that. Eighteen top academic medical centers in North America are currently participating in the program.
Each year, the North America iAwards program attracts approximately 300 pre-proposals, funding 20-30 projects annually. In the last three years, 73 projects were funded. Of those, 16 met their milestones and were either extended (4 projects) or converted into sponsored research (12 projects). Sponsored research projects involve a higher funding level and inclusion in our early-stage portfolio, thus underscoring the value emerging from this unique pharma-academic partnership model. In fact, funding and strategic decisions are jointly managed by a Joint Scientific Steering Committee (JSSC) composed of Sanofi therapeutic area leadership and high profile scientists from participating institutions. The overall program is managed by a dedicated team within Sanofi.
Since its launch in 2016—first as a pilot program with seven internationally-recognized academic institutions and medical centers in the United States—the iAwards program has continued to expand each year.
Sridaran Natesan, Head of Strategic Initiatives and Scientific Relations, Sanofi North America who oversees this program in North America, explains its importance:
“The program has created an opportunity for Sanofi scientists to closely collaborate with some of the top academic scientists in the world and bring several high quality drug discovery projects to Sanofi’s early stage pipeline with the potential to become transformative medicines in the future.”
Sridaran Natesan, Head of Strategic Initiatives and Scientific Relations, Sanofi North America
Based on the successful outcomes from the North America iAwards program, in 2018, Sanofi created the European iAwards program in which multiple premier academic institutions in France, Germany, the U.K. and Israel are currently participating.
The scientific collaboration appeals to Sanofi’s academic partners because of the quick and transparent decision making process and opportunity to engage with Sanofi scientists and leadership both before and after receiving the award. Selected projects receive seed funding of $125,000 for one year through which investigators gain access to Sanofi’s expertise and resources. Projects that meet their set milestones get converted to Sponsored Research Agreements (SRAs) for another 2-3 years and receive a higher funding level. Overall, the program has delivered. Eight promising projects were added to Sanofi’s early-stage portfolio in the first two years of the program and another 8 projects from last year’s batch are currently going through the contracting process.
With an abundance of great ideas–Sanofi has received over 900 pre-proposals to date–the iAwards program is an example of the company’s open innovation approach.
The funded projects cover a wide-range of therapeutic areas including: immunology & inflammation, rare diseases, cardiovascular, neurosciences, immuno-oncology, molecular oncology, diabetes, and biologics research.
An increasing number of academic scientists are interested in collaborating with the pharma industry to advance their discoveries to the clinic. The iAwards program provides an opportunity to closely collaborate with experienced scientists within Sanofi to achieve their goal. For Sanofi scientists, the program provides an opportunity to work with world-class academic scientists and their lab members to develop potentially transformative medicines. As a first-of-its-kind partnership, the iAwards program aims to create a community of scientists within Sanofi and partnering academic institutions to find ways to quickly convert innovative scientific discoveries to medicines that can be tested in the clinic.