Thomas Jefferson University and the Monell Chemical Senses Center announced Wednesday that they have entered a formal agreement to collaborate on scientific programs, research, and clinical projects aimed at improving human health.
The one-year cooperation pact comes about 10 months after Jefferson and Monell signed a letter of intent to look into merging the institutions. However, officials with Monell, the sensory research institute now in its 50th year, said they and Jefferson decided a formal merger was not necessary to achieve their research goal and that as independent partners, they would have the flexibility to work together but also team up with other entities. Jefferson and Philadelphia University merged more than a year ago, and Jefferson has expanded substantially through health-system acquisitions in recent years.
"Together, we think the synergy is definitely greater than the sum of our individual parts, and we're excited to do joint research that builds on each of our strengths," said Monell president and director Robert Margolskee.
"This creative partnership agreement is a powerful next step in our relationship with Monell," said Stephen K. Klasko, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health. "This allows our scientists to share ideas, compete for funding together, and focus on the real work: reimagining discovery."
The agreement went into effect Aug. 1, but the institutions already had been collaborating.
One example of an ongoing venture by Jefferson and Monell is a research project funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at getting children to take their medicine by improving the taste of liquid formulations.
Both institutions say their partnership can lead to research opportunities in heart disease, obesity, hypertension, infectious disease, dementia, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Officials of both institutions said they will be making seed-funding commitments, as well as seeking additional financial support.
At the end of 2017, Jefferson had a $27.9 million operating loss, which it attributed to short-term investments to achieve longer-term goals. The rate loss lessened from the third quarter to the fourth.
However, "this partnership is not about financials," said Mark Tykocinski, provost and executive vice president for Jefferson. "It's a collaboration that seeks to advance our respective research missions. After extensive due diligence, both organizations came to the conclusion that this type of agreement was more beneficial to advancing our missions."
Margolskee said he wouldn't rule out a merger in the future, but said the new agreement was an "easy and fast" way to move forward.
"The more complicated, more lengthy, process of a formal merger wasn't necessary for us to accomplish the goals we wanted to accomplish," Margolskee said.