BioWorld International Correspondent

Genzyme Corp. shortly will unveil two new academic collaborations in the area of autoimmune disease, with research groups in the Netherlands and Germany.

The moves are part of an overall trend toward greater "Europeanization" of the company's research and development, its chief science officer for Europe, Carlo Incerti, told BioWorld International.

"We have a strategy to do a little more systematic evaluation of opportunities in specific areas of our franchises," he said. "There are now a number of very interesting opportunities and possibilities in Europe - even more, in certain areas, than you could find in the United States," Incerti said.

The activity is particularly focused around newer indications for Cambridge, Mass.-based Genzyme, such as renal disease and autoimmune conditions, rather than its traditional field of lysosomal disorders. The company also is collaborating with an Italian center in the area of diabetic nephropathy, while it recently disclosed a preclinical research partnership on irritable bowel disease with the Academic Medical Center at Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Genzyme, which has around 1,000 employees in Europe, has further deepened its presence on that side of the Atlantic following its recent $600 million acquisition of Fremont, Calif.-based SangStat Medical Corp. That company operates a manufacturing plant in Lyon, France, and it also has process and some product development functions.

"We are inheriting 170 people in Lyon," Incerti said.

The company already has a substantial manufacturing presence in Europe, with plants in Belgium, the UK and Ireland. It now wants to raise its scientific profile, Incerti said, and become the partner of choice in selected areas for biotechnology companies as well as academic researchers. It has existing collaborations in scleroderma with Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc, of Cambridge, UK, and with BruCells SA, of Brussels, Belgium, in cancer vaccines.