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AstraZeneca deal to delve into the secretome

Published on 11/12/15 at 09:26am

MedImmune, the biologics research and development arm of pharma giant AstraZeneca, has signed a collaboration with Swedish universities and research foundations, to develop ‘next-generation’ biologic drugs.

The three-year partnership is between MedImmune and the Wallenberg Centre for Protein Research (WCPR). The WCPR is a newly-established research centre that is part of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the largest private financier of research in Sweden.

Three Swedish universities – the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Uppsala University and the Chalmers University of Technology – are also part of the research agreement. The collaboration aims to develop new technologies for biologics production, and to identify new targets for disease research in the ground-breaking area of the secretome. The secretome looks at research into all the proteins that are secreted by a cell or that are exposed to the outside of the cell from within the cell membrane.

The secretome accounts for approximately a third of all human proteins, which play a major role in most biological processes including those involved in making new heart cells, the maintenance of functioning cells for blood sugar, cancer growth and spread. This group of proteins is therefore considered to be an invaluable source for identifying new biomarkers, drug targets and for developing novel biologics.

AstraZeneca and MedImmune are focusing on two initiatives:

  • AstraZeneca’s Innovative Medicines biotech unit (iMED) will screen the secretome library using the company’s proprietary assays to identify new protein-based targets for compound development across a range of diseases.
  • The creation of new ‘cell factories’ for the large-scale production of therapeutic proteins to support MedImmune’s deep and diversifying pipeline. The company says this work “promises significant improvements on the current, industry-wide methods of the manufacture of biopharmaceutical proteins.”

At a press conference in Stockholm with the Swedish Government to announce up to $100 million of funding for protein research, AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said: “We’re tremendously excited to be part of this innovative collaboration as we explore what science can do to advance medical research. Harnessing the power of the secretome in this unprecedented way will help us to identify new biomarkers, drug targets and ultimately develop next-generation biological treatments.”

Professor Mathias Uhlén, professor of microbiology at KTH and the lead author of the world’s first genome-wide map of the human proteome including the secretome, published this year, welcomed the collaboration, commenting: “We are delighted to partner with AstraZeneca and MedImmune as it will allow us to translate the scientific findings we have made when determining the map of proteins across the body into meaningful treatments for people with a wide range of diseases.”

Novo Nordisk diabetes research

In another partnership agreement to harness new potential pharma technologies, Novo Nordisk and IBM Watson have agreed a deal to work together to create possibilities for improved diabetes care via insights from real-time, real-world evidence of Novo Nordisk diabetes treatments and devices, analysed by the Watson Health Cloud.

Commenting on the agreement, Jakob Riis, who is executive vice president of Novo Nordisk, says: "Working with ambitious partners like IBM Watson Health helps us explore the opportunities presented by an increasingly digitalised healthcare system. We aim to leverage our combined capabilities to improve the lives of people with diabetes by making the management of the condition more simple, effective and measurable."

Lilian Anekwe

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