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ETH Life - wissen was laeuft ETH Life - wissen was laeuft

ETH - Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
Section: Science Life
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Published: 09.03.2006, 06:00
Modified: 09.03.2006, 13:49
SystemsX-Roche co-operation
Research alliance strengthened

(per) Official collaboration began last week between the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche and "SystemsX", the Swiss Initiative in Systems Biology. On the 27th of February the representatives of the two institutios sealed the alliance with a kick-off event on ETH Campus Hönggerberg.

The "crown jewels" of Zurich's systems biology were presented to the delegation of nine from Basel, led by René Imhof, Head of Pharma Research at Roche. These "crown jewels" include the Animal Imaging Centre, the Light Microscopy Centre, as well as a new mass spectrometer at the ETH Institute for Molecular Systems Biology. The acquisition of this 700,000 CHF apparatus was induced, in part, by the new collaboration between Roche and "SystemsX". The guests from Basle were suitably impressed by the host of technical possibilities that Hönggerberg has to offer.

Already mid-December 2005 representatives from Roche and "SystemsX" signed an agreement for the mutual project, which involves scientists from the Basle pharmaceutical giant and the competence centre for systems physiology and metabolic disorders (CC-SPMD) who will work together on a project on type II diabetes. Roche is supporting the project with 6.3 million CHF over three years (1).

Promising collaboration

This kind of collaboration is also new for René Imhof, as he explained to ETH Life. "We are opening a new chapter in the annals of cooperation," he said. "SystemsX" made it possible to bring together private, application-oriented and academic research. The concerted expertise should soon make it possible to find answers to various open questions surrounding diabetes. This metabolic disorder was one of the areas in which Roche wants to bring new kinds of products onto the market in future, said the head of pharma research. Imhof praised "SystemsX" as one of the most important competence centres in Europe working on metabolic disorders. This direction of research corresponds well to Roche's own mid- and long-term interests. In addition, personal contacts had played an important part in the choice of a research partner and in establishing co-operation.

"Thanks to co-operation with Roche we're nearer to the market," says cell biologist Professor Wilhelm Krek. The co-operation provided a seamless transition from fundamental research to the discovery of new agents. Roche was also a good partner to have because the company felt committed to the entire process. And it was unique that Roche was supporting an entire project and not an individual chair. "This is precisely in the interest of our competence centre".

Preparations for the project to research pancreatic beta cells started at ETH already in February with the appointment of post-doctorate positions. Last week scientists from Zurich University, ETH Zurich, Basle University and Roche began to hold regular meetings.

Insights into ETH's high-tech park: René Imhof, Head of Pharma Research at Roche, ETH Professor Wilhelm Krek and Giatgen Spinas, Head of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Zurich's University Hospital (from left to right). large


(1) Cf. ETH Life article "Schulterschluss von Roche und Hochschulen“:

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