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Biogen Idec teams up with academia

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Biogen Idec, which in July announced a collaboration with Duke University  to bolster its research efforts on Lou Gherig's disease, is building on that effort by establishing a research consortium with a half-dozen prominent academics to identify new approaches to treating the disease.

The company, which is based in Massachusetts but employs more than 1,000 workers at its Research Triangle Park campus, said Thursday that it has committed more than $10 million to fund the consortium's research over the next three years. Researchers at Yale, Harvard and Columbia universities are participating in the consortium.

Research on Lou Gherig's disease "is a primary focus for Biogen Idec, but has proven to be a very difficult disease to understand and treat," Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, Biogen's chief scientific officer and a professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. "We believe that taking a holistic approach that explores the many variables involved in the development and progression of (Lou Gherig's disease) will speed our ability to identify viable drug targets that can be moved into testing."

The collaboration with Duke, which also includes the nonprofit HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology in Huntsville, Ala., is focused on sequencing the genomes of up to 1,000 people with Lou Gherig's disease over the next five years. The goal: gaining insights into the genetic causes of the disease.

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About the blogger

David Ranii has been a business reporter at The News & Observer since 1993. Over the years he has covered information technology, banking, insurance, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, media businesses and real estate. Contact him at 919-829-4877 or e-mail him.