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Pharma consortium extends UK academic collaboration

AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Merck Serono and Pfizer extend their partnership with University of Dundee-MRC to 2016

A consortium including six pharma companies has contributed an extra £14m in funding to advance a collaboration with the University of Dundee and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT), which includes AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Merck Serono and Pfizer, will provide support up to June 2016 for research into new treatments for such diseases as cancer, arthritis, lupus, hypertension and Parkinson's disease.

The new funding will secure 50 posts at Dundee until 2016, with these divided into 15 research teams. There are also 13 extra teams based within the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit and Scottish Institute for Cell Signalling (SCILLS) at the College of Life Sciences.

Research is focused on treating diseases with drugs that target malfunctioning kinase enzymes as well as the body's ubiquitin system – a relatively new area of drug development.

This is the third time the partnership has been expanded since its launch in 1998, following funding increases in 2003 and 2008, and takes its total funding to over £50m.

Professor Sir Philip Cohen, co-founder of the DSTT, said: "Collaborations between academic laboratories and the pharmaceutical industry typically last a few years. Therefore to maintain and expand support for the DSTT from 1998 until at least 2016 is unprecedented and remarkable. It shows how valuable the collaboration has been for the pharmaceutical industry."

GSK's Dr Malcolm Skingle, who is chair of the DSTT's programme management group, was similarly positive: “This project has shown the benefits that can come from pharmaceutical companies working hand-in-hand with top flight research at the University of Dundee."

The announcement should also please the UK trade body, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), which recently called for greater partnership efforts between industry and academia to ensure the country remains a leader in drug development and science training.

15th May 2012

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