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AZ sets up joint lab with Cancer Research UK

Five-year collaboration will drive charity’s research programmes
AstraZeneca AZ headquarters London UK

AstraZeneca (AZ) is forging closer ties with Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and will set up a joint laboratory with the medical charity.

AZ's biologics unit MedImmune will work side-by-side by CRUK scientists at the new facility which will be located in Cambridge near AZ's new headquarters and focus on several drug targets identified in CRUK's research programmes.

The medical charity - which already operates research facilities in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh - will also fund the set-up and day-to-day operations of the unit during the five-year collaboration, while MedImmune will oversee the lab and provide access to drug development technology and expertise.

The project is another example of a pharma company getting closer lending technical expertise to publicly funded researchers in return for access to new target discoveries. These new collaborative approaches are designed to reduce pharma companies' reliance on internal R&D projects and help translate discoveries in academia into therapeutic development programmes.

Other recent examples include the Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) programme at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which scouts out promising science within academia and provides a mechanism to allow academic partners to become core members of drug discovery teams, and the recent decision by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to open regional offices close to academic centres of excellence.

Bahija Jallal, executive vice president at MedImmune, commented” "Our collaboration represents an innovative public-private business model for biologic drug development.”

"We will share knowledge and expertise in a dedicated laboratory to discover potentially ground-breaking medicines for cancer patients," he added.

MedImmune will provide access to its human antibody phage display libraries and antibody-engineering technologies, potentially accelerating the development of new cancer therapies. Meanwhile, for CRUK the alliance allows it to speed up plans to expand its capabilities in biologic medicines, a key pillar of its recently revised research strategy that was published in May.

The CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory is not, however, the first time that AZ has set up a joint R&D facility with a public research body. In March, it announced a plan to open a Centre for Lead Discovery in Cambridge - in tandem with the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) - that will give academic researchers access to in-house compound library and compound screening capabilities.

Meanwhile, the announcement is the second early-stage cancer collaboration to be announced by AZ this month. A couple of weeks ago it said it would work with UK biotech Redx Pharma - a start-up which has moved into the UK pharma giant's biocluster at Alderley Park in Cheshire - to research the genetic drivers of cancer.

Article by
Phil Taylor

25th September 2014

From: Research

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