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UCB to work with Oxford University on immunology and neurology research

Research will focus initially on 5-10 projects

UCB and Oxford University are to work together to develop medicines for serious diseases in immunology and neurology.

The collaboration will run over three years, with Belgium-based pharma company UCB contributing £3.6m for funding.

Between five and 10 projects will be selected for investigation, with research to be overseen by a steering committee made up representatives from both parties.

UCB said it hopes that the collaboration will better enable innovative research to be translated to medicines, citing the UK government's Strategy for Life Sciences, which aims to support the country's industry and boost uptake of new drugs.

Commenting on the Oxford University collaboration, UCB's CEO Doliveux said: “This new partnership combines Oxford University's world-class academic research with UCB's world-class antibody research to bring two parties, committed to scientific exploration and the exchange of cutting edge ideas, together on a mission to discover new medicines that will aim to transform the lives of people living with severe diseases.”

The move was also backed by the UK government, and minister for universities and science David Willetts described the agreement as “very welcome news”.

“The initiative brings together leaders from the academic and business worlds to drive innovation and develop treatments for serious diseases affecting millions of people,” he said. “This will in turn have benefits for patients and the economy.”

Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, praised the benefits of industry and academia working together, saying such joint working has an “increasingly prominent role to play” in drug development.

He said: “Pooling expertise and resources is exactly what we should be doing to carry out the best research, identify the most promising new drug candidates and take them forward.”

The agreement builds on recent comments made by UCB's Doliveux that academic institutions are at the heart of the country's research.

“It's not by accident that if you look at leading [US] biotechs – they are based around UCSF and around Boston,” he said in an interview following the announcement of the company's 2011 financial results.

Doliveux was also recently appointed chair of the board of the Innovative Medicines Initiative – a partnership between the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) that funds collaborative efforts in innovation.

• Read more on the potential for relationships between industry and academia in the PMLiVE article 'Powerful partners - pharma and academia'.

20th March 2012

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