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Merck, MIT announces collaboration

MIT and Merck & Co., Inc., have announced a long-term research and education collaboration to pursue joint initiatives in both MIT science and engineering.

"This Merck-MIT partnership is a pacesetter. America must enhance its ability to innovate by increasing substantive interaction between faculty and students in universities and their research counterparts in industry," said MIT President Charles M. Vest. "We each have different roles to play, but synergies must be developed. Merck has exhibited real leadership by investing in the future through this support and interaction with MIT science and the future scientists and biotech-nical engineers among our graduate students."

"First and foremost, our growth depends on breakthrough discoveries fueled by scientific excellence and strong investments in research," said Edward M. Scolnick, M.D., executive vice president for science and technology and president of Merck Research Laboratories.

Under terms of the agreement, Merck will have certain patent and technology license rights to developments resulting from the Merck-supported collaborations in exchange for funding up to $15 million over an initial five-year period, with an option to extend these collaborations to 10 years.

Merck will support faculty in science and bioengineering areas in developing technology and research. One project under consideration is in the area of biocomputing/computational science and infomatics applied to biology.

MIT will propose programs and projects to joint collaboration managers. The Institute will also have the right to publish articles on the research. MIT students and faculty engaged in these Merck-funded activities will participate in symposia on their activities.

"MIT students and faculty will learn a lot from interacting with Merck scientists, and we are very excited about the agreement," said Professor Phillip A. Sharp, head of the Department of Biology.

Robert Malster, MIT manager of corporate relations who guided the interactions that led to the proposal, called it an "outstanding agreement. MIT and Merck, both world-class performers, will use this partnership to prepare for the next decades."

In addition, Merck will support a group of 18 Merck Scholars through creation of a MIT-Merck Fellowship Program--eight scholars at the graduate level in engineering, physical science and mathematics--and 10 at the postdoctoral level in biological science.

The Merck-MIT agreement provides for full participation by faculty, fellows and students at MIT and the Whitehead Institute. The collaboration will be directed by a joint six-member team of collaboration managers. For MIT, these are Professor Sharp; Nancy Hopkins, professor of biology and a member of the Center for Cancer Research; and Institute Professor Daniel Wang of chemical engineering, director of the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center. Collaboration managers for Merck are Dr. Scolnick, who is also a member of the Merck's board of directors; Dr. Bennett M. Shapiro, executive vice president of Merck Worldwide Basic Research, and Dr. Myra B. Kurtz, senior director for Merck Research.

Based in Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck is a global pharmaceutical company that discovers, develops, manufactures and markets a broad range of human and animal health products and services.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 19, 1997.

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