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AstraZeneca deepens Cambridge ties

Published on 16/10/14 at 02:49pm
Astrazeneca's Cambridge Biomedical Campus
AstraZeneca's Cambridge Biomedical Campus

AstraZeneca along with its biologics R&D arm MedImmune are to enter into four new collaborations with the University of Cambridge.

This all adds to the firm’s existing ties with the city and follows its decision to locate one of its three R&D centres there, along with its main headquarters.

Cambridge has been home to MedImmune’s biologics research labs for 25 years, and these latest agreements build upon existing strategies between AstraZeneca, MedImmune and the University to include oncology research and co-location of AZ’s scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.

The four new agreements comprise neuroscience research, access to AZ’s pipeline compounds, PhD programme to support future leaders in science – and an entrepreneur-in-residence programme.

Mene Pangalos, executive VP of innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca says: “In a world where partnerships and collaborations drive medical innovation, deepening our roots in the vibrant Cambridge life science ecosystem offers compelling advantages for AstraZeneca.

“These new agreements will not only bring our teams closer to the world-class academic investigators at the University of Cambridge, but will also enable us to actively support the development of the next generation of leading scientists right here in the UK.”

AstraZeneca’s new HQ on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC), due to open in two years’ time, will feature an R&D ‘enabling’ building and a central courtyard.

The move is part of a wider restructure of AstraZeneca’s global operations which is designed to improve the productivity of its R&D. It will add to existing sites in the US (Gaithersburg, Maryland) and Sweden (Mölndal near Gothenburg) by 2016.

Construction is set to begin early next year on the Cambridge facility, whose cost when the plans were announced last year was estimated at £330 million.

In May AstraZeneca announced it was also joining forces with the Medical Research Council and Laboratory of Molecular Biology – a part of Cambridge University – to help discover new medicines at an early stage of development.

But these new four agreements announced between AstraZeneca and the University, cover:

Neuroscience research

A three-year collaboration between AstraZeneca, MedImmune and the University will focus on advancing R&D in neurodegenerative diseases.

Scientists from all three parties will collectively address gaps in drug discovery, translational biomarkers and personalised healthcare approaches for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

The University will contribute expertise in disease biology, experimental models and tissue samples, while AstraZeneca and MedImmune will provide access to molecular tools, screening capabilities to enable novel target and biomarker discovery and validation.

Access to AstraZeneca pipeline compounds

A pivotal Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) will give researchers from the University of Cambridge access to key compounds from AZ’s pipeline for investigation, such as the EGFR inhibitor AZD9291 for non-small cell lung cancer, olaparib, a PARP inhibitor, AZD2014, an mTOR inhibitor and AZD5363, an AKT inhibitor.

PhD programme to support future leaders in science

This includes a doctoral training programme whereby PhD candidates will spend significant time at the University and in MedImmune’s labs, jointly supervised by the organisations during their four-year studentship.

Entrepreneur-in-residence programme

This programme will offer guidance and mentorship to academic researchers at the University who are considering the broader application and commercial potential of their scientific programmes.

MedImmune will provide support and advice on a range of key issues tailored to the individual academic’s needs such as drug and technology development, business planning, intellectual property, market opportunity, partnering approaches and securing investment.

Brett Wells

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