TTBD Industry Spotlight: Michael Cohen and Takeda Pharmaceuticals

Michael Cohen, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology

Whether it’s finding an effective vaccine approach to protect against human pathogens, or developing a technology that allows physicians to detect blood vessel abnormalities in the eye, researchers are constantly pushing the boundaries of science to create new, innovative solutions to problems. In the case of Michael Cohen, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology at OHSU, he is currently working to develop a method to profile new protein synthesis in a cell-specific manner in mice. In order to help move his research forward, he had to seek out additional funding sources.

While searching for alternative resources, Cohen came across a funding alert involving Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Upon reading the program’s description, he felt that his research was the perfect match. Cohen contacted Takeda, and several meetings were held to discuss both parties’ objectives. Ultimately, Takeda agreed to fund his research, thus allowing him to further develop the technology.

When asked about the partnership, Cohen replied, “this is my first experience with industry collaborations, but I have to say, it’s been totally amazing. I don’t feel like there’s any pressure to reach a certain milestone. They just really want to learn about the technology, see where we’re at with it, and give some helpful suggestions.”

Cohen has been working specifically with the New Frontier Science group, a research and development organization within Takeda Pharmaceuticals. This group offers resources to external innovators by providing direct funding, allowing access to drug discovery platforms, and setting up collaborations with expert scientists and engineers within the company. Partnerships with this group are centered on accelerating novel science and developing new technologies.

When asked if he had any advice for other academic researchers considering industry-sponsored research, Cohen replied, “Now that I know it exists, I have been looking for more opportunities because you have to find a way to survive in challenging funding times. And it might take your research in a different direction that you never thought of before.”

Cohen joined OHSU in 2011. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Weill Cornell Medical College and received his Ph.D. in chemical biology from the University of California in San Francisco. Today, Cohen is still working with Takeda Pharmaceuticals to further develop the technology. His last piece of advice to fellow OHSU researchers? “Just focus on good science. Industry associates will notice, and they’ll like that.”