The UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) is to provide £7m towards 15 research projects using 22 compounds owned by AstraZeneca (AZ).
According to AZ, the 15 projects will investigate the compounds as possible treatments for a range of conditions, including Alzheimer's, cancer and lung disease, as well as rarer diseases, such as motor neurone disease and muscular dystrophies.
Eight of these projects will see the drugs tested in humans during clinical trials, while the remaining seven will only utilise laboratory and animal models ahead of possible further development
As previously announced, AZ is providing free access to the compounds as part of the UK government's life sciences strategy, but the pharma company will retain rights to their chemical compositions. However, any new research findings will be owned by the academic institution, and rights to intellectual property (IP) generated will vary between projects.
Institutions receiving funding from the MRC include the University of Manchester, University of Leeds, Royal Veterinary College, University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, University of Bristol and the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, Harwell, all of which have one associated research project.
There are a further two projects at both the University of Sheffield and the University of Birmingham, while University College London has three projects receiving funding.
Professor Patrick Johnston, chair of the MRC's translational research group, commented on the significance of the programme, which received 100 expressions of interest and 23 full funding proposals.
He said: “The quality of applications we received for the MRC-AstraZeneca collaboration was higher than we could ever have hoped and we are delighted to be funding 15 excellent projects.
He added: “Not only will this bring benefits for patients in the form of more effective medicines and a better understanding of disease, but it has also allowed academic researchers to forge new partnerships with industry, which will give rise to future collaboration across the life sciences sector.”
The UK's BioIndustry Association also said it was hopeful of similar collaborations in the future, with chief executive Steve Bates commenting it was the “beginning of an exciting coming together of academia, industry and government”.
He continued: "The prospect of de-risking private investment in this way and supporting the development of these products for patients through innovative ways of working shows how the biopharmaceutical sector is responding creatively to the challenge of getting more treatments to market."