Amgen's Bill Richards recently visited USC to provide an introduction to the company. (Photo by Cristy Lytal)

Amgen’s Bill Richards recently visited USC to provide an introduction to the company. (Photo by Cristy Lytal)

Without collaboration between universities and pharmaceutical companies, scientists might never have developed essential medicines ranging from the antibiotic streptomycin in the 1950s to HIV medications in the 1990s. In recognition of the ever increasing importance of these academia-industry partnerships, USC and Amgen are jointly offering two new opportunities: a 10-week biotechnology lecture series for students and postdoctoral researchers, and a monthly seminar series open to all.

“Strong relationships between academia and industry are vital to accelerating our progress in medical research,” said Andy McMahon, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. “Through these new opportunities for interaction and exchange, we look forward to deepening our collaboration with Amgen for the ultimate benefit of patients.”

Rohit Varma, interim dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, added, “Our close connections with Amgen and other industry partners support the medical school’s larger mission of promoting education, research and clinical care in the context of a world-class research university.”

To provide an introduction to Amgen, Qing Liu-Michael, program director of USC’s stem cell research center, invited Bill Richards, the company’s executive director of Discovery Research, to visit USC on July 21. Liu-Michael and Richards have been instrumental in building bridges between USC and Amgen. In addition, Richards, who has worked at Amgen for more than 20 years, is currently collaborating with USC researcher Janos Peti-Peterdi on a kidney project.

“We’re pleased to partner with USC to provide Amgen and USC scientists with opportunities to learn more about the innovative science happening at our respective institutions,” said Richards. “Academic collaboration continues to be a key priority for Amgen, and we look forward to identifying additional ways to partner with USC to advance innovative science for the benefit of patients.”

Following this introduction, the inaugural seminar will feature McMahon, who will deliver a talk at Amgen on September 28. Sasha Kamb, senior vice president for Discovery Research at Amgen, will deliver the next seminar at USC on October 26. Moving forward, the monthly seminars will alternate between USC speakers at Amgen, and Amgen speakers at USC.

Throughout the fall, Amgen scientists will also lead a 10-week biotechnology lecture series for master’s and PhD students studying stem cell biology and regenerative medicine as well as postdoctoral fellows at USC. Titled “R&D Insights from Lab Bench to Patient Bedside,” the series will cover the process of bringing a drug from the discovery stage into clinical use, and culminate with a tour of Amgen’s global headquarters in Thousand Oaks.

USC and Amgen also recently signed a three-year master agreement for future research collaborations with the goal of accelerating scientific discoveries into clinical therapies.

“We welcome these new partnerships with Amgen because such collaborations can have crucial results for some of our most serious health care challenges,” said USC Provost Michael Quick. “USC is involved in these types of efforts for the public good–they are aimed at swiftly moving our scientific research to the marketplace.”

By Cristy Lytal