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AstraZeneca in strategic R&D collaboration with UK Medical Research Council

01 April 2014
AstraZeneca and the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) on Monday announced a new collaboration aimed at better understanding the mechanisms of human disease.

AstraZeneca said it is setting up a joint research facility at is new R&D centre in Cambridge as the research site.

The AstraZeneca MRC UK Centre, which will focus on new research leads in human diseases, will be set up within the new AstraZeneca site at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, due to be completed in 2016.

The facility ''will have world class MRC-supported researchers working side-by-side with scientists in AstraZeneca's high throughput screening group, identifying new methods to better understand a range of diseases and potential treatment options,'' the company said in a release.

The joint research has set an initial run for a period of five years, during which, AstraZeneca said, academic researchers will benefit from access to over two million molecules in its compound library, as well as its state-of-the-art high throughput screening facilities at the new site.

Research proposals will be submitted to the MRC that will independently assess and select the best scientific proposals from a broad range of therapy areas and diseases. The MRC will fund up to 15 screening projects per year to be carried out at the Centre for Lead Discovery.

AstraZeneca will have the first option to enter a negotiation to licence any resulting drug discovery programmes of relevance to the company's therapeutic areas of interest. If this option is not used, the academics can negotiate with other parties.

''This major strategic alliance with the MRC is the first of its kind. It will further AstraZeneca's aim of creating a truly innovative and collaborative research environment at our new site in Cambridge, where our teams will work side by side with world leading MRC scientists. Through this collaboration AstraZeneca and the MRC will push the boundaries of science to accelerate drug discovery and the development of new medicines here in the UK,'' Menelas Pangalos, executive vice president, innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca, said.

Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, said, ''This is a unique collaboration that will give MRC researchers unparalleled access to AstraZeneca's state-of-the-art screening capabilities, world-leading infrastructure and an extensive, high quality compound library. The agreement demonstrates the MRC and AstraZeneca's commitment to long-term investment in UK infrastructure. It is an exciting move that will fast-track research that might not otherwise have been carried out, and will ultimately mean better treatments for patients.''

''AstraZeneca, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, has signalled a huge vote of confidence in our UK science base by selecting the MRC as their partner of choice for this exciting new collaboration. Forging these strong business and academic partnerships supports our life sciences industrial strategy and is vital in reinforcing the UK's reputation as a global leader in medical research," UK's science minister David Willetts said.

AstraZeneca said the collaboration may initiate some projects as early as 2015, based at AstraZeneca's existing research facilities.

Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests government funds in medical research across every area of health. So far, 29 MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed.

MRC is currently engaged in tackling some of the greatest health problems including the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms.

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