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MedImmune partners with US National Cancer Institute

Will research immunotherapies, imaging and stem cell treatments
MedImmune building

AstraZeneca (AZ) has entered its second major research collaboration in cancer immunotherapies this month with the news that its MedImmune unit will partner with the US National Cancer Institute (NCI).

MedImmune, which is based in Maryland in the US, will initially work on four preclinical research projects with the NCI, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including studies to investigate its exciting anti-PD-1 candidate MEDI4736 in combinations with other treatments.

The deal follows the news earlier this month that MedImmune has formed a partnership with Omnis Pharmaceuticals to develop oncolytic viruses - viruses that are designed to infect and kill cancer cells - and is another sign that AZ has immunotherapies at the heart of its oncology ambitions.

The collaboration with the NCI is broken down into two areas: research into cancer immunotherapies, which encourage the body's immune system to target cancer cells, and research into new technologies to target tumours directly. The latter will make use of antibody drug conjugates and anti-cancer stem cell therapies.

Regarding the research into immunotherapies NCI scientists will work on several MedImmune candidates, including the previously mentioned MEDI4736 and MEDI0680, another anti-PD-1 candidate, tremelimumab and MEDI6469. These compounds will be studied in various combinations in genetically engineered mouse models, which MedImmune says better represent human tumours.

The NCI and MedImmune will also study MEDI4736, tremelimumab and MEDI6469 as potential cancer vaccines.

The second area of research will see the partners study molecular imaging for MedImmune's antibody drug conjugates, which combine the targeting power of antibodies with another active agent - typically a cytotoxic drug - that is designed to boost their activity. AZ boosted its pipeline in thsi area with the $440m acquisition of Spirogen.

MedImmune and the NCI will also work on another exciting area of cancer research - the potential of stem-cell therapies to attack tumour cells directly.

Dr Bahija Jallal, executive VP, MedImmune. "We are fortunate that some of the nation's best science takes place right in our backyard at NIH, and we look forward to bringing together top scientific expertise to help cancer patients in need."

AZ has several research collaborations involving MEDI4736 , including one with Advaxis that was signed in July last year, as well as deals with Johnson & Johnson and Pharmacyclics to test various combinations of the drug and other treatments.

Article by
Kirstie Pickering

22nd January 2015

From: Research

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