Sanofi teams with Big Data outfit to research drugs for diabetes and cancer

Sanofi research czar Elias Zerhouni has pushed for the company to delve deeply into the study of diseases before leaping into drug development. Now the French drug giant ($SNY) plans to collaborate with the software company NextBio to infuse patients' genomic and other data into its work on treatments for such diseases as cancer and diabetes.

Specifically, Santa Clara, CA-based NextBio said that Sanofi, a long-time customer, plans to use a product called NextBio Clinical as part of the pharma company's Translational Medicine for Patients (TM4P) program. NextBio's technology enables Sanofi scientists to integrate clinical, next-generation sequencing and other data from internal and external sources. It gives Sanofi researchers the ability to analyze Big Data sources in real time as a component of their work on translating data from experiments into new therapies.

Zerhouni took over R&D at Sanofi after helming the National Institutes of Health, where he gained an appreciation for the value of translational research, in which insights from lab work and information from patient care inform studies of new treatments. As he has told The Wall Street Journal and other publications, Sanofi researchers aim to understand the biology of diseases and clinical needs before the company launches into expensive clinical trials.

"The new translational medicine partnership with NextBio, with its Big Data Genomics capabilities, will enable Sanofi to implement patient-centered approaches across all stages of translational and clinical research in several major therapeutic areas, including oncology and diabetes," Saeid Akhtari, NextBio's president and CEO, said in a statement.

Pharma companies have adopted tools such as NextBio as the volume of biological information from internal and external labs becomes overwhelming, due in part to the shrinking cost and expanded use of DNA sequencing and growth of new data sources, such as electronic health records. In cancer research, for example, scientists have discovered myriad genes that influence the growth of tumors in many different organs and have used these insights to develop targeted drugs.

- here's the release