Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY) is going to Harvard this fall for some post-grad work in drug development. The Big Pharma company -- which has been trumpeting its intention to partner up with academics and biotech companies rather than rely entirely on its own in-house research -- and the Ivy League institution announced a research pact this morning, with a special focus on biomedical R&D projects involving cancer, diabetes and inflammation.

The partnership will match Sanofi's money with Harvard's brains in pursuit of new therapies and diagnostics for the three key research arenas. Harvard's Office of Technology Development will bird-dog various projects Sanofi may be interested in, and the pharma giant will host an annual soiree with university researchers to bolster the relationship.

For Sanofi, the pact gives its scientists a chance to work more closely with researchers who have been at the forefront of biomedical research in the U.S. The deal follows a pact that Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) hammered out with Washington University, in which university researchers agreed to offer a second opinion on new indications for about 500 molecules. The portfolio also included drugs that had failed clinical trials. And it's likely that we'll see more of these tie-ups between Big Pharma and universities as the industry continues its push for new drugs that can replace the blockbusters on the verge of losing patent protection.

"This collaboration exemplifies Harvard's commitment to creatively partner with industry in ways that we hope will push the boundaries of translational science, and advance our mandate of serving the public interest by making the fruits of our research available to society," says Steven Hyman MD, provost of Harvard University.

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