AstraZeneca gives 22 drug compounds for research at UK
5 December 2011
Astra Zeneca and the UK Medical Research Council have reached
a landmark agreement that gives UK universities free access to 22 of the
company's compounds with pharmaceutical potential.
Through MRC funding, UK academia will conduct studies to better
understand what drives a range of diseases with a view to exploring
new treatment opportunities.
As part of the collaboration with AstraZeneca, the MRC is
inviting research proposals from across the UK academic community to
use the compounds in new areas. The MRC will judge and select the
best scientific proposals, and award up to £10 million in total to
fund research across a broad range of human diseases.
Drug development is a long, complex and expensive process — the
average sector cost of bringing a new medicine to market was more
than £630 million this year.
Pharmaceutical companies have shed thousands of research jobs
recently as they move more to a model collaboration with
universities and other research-based institutions and companies.
Companies are under financial pressure, partly due to many drug
patents coming to an end, reducing the supply of funds to finance
the companies' own research and development.
The first step in making new medicines available to patients is
the development of chemical compounds, which have the potential to
treat or prevent a specific disease. Many compounds undergo early
trials but are then put on hold for a variety of reasons. Some of
these compounds are seen as invaluable by scientists, who can use
them in medical research with the ultimate aim of benefiting
Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council,
said: “The MRC is delighted to be partnering AstraZeneca in this
exciting new approach towards understanding disease mechanisms in
humans and thereby speeding the development of new treatments. The
initiative marks a new era in medical discovery, open innovation and
David Brennan, AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive Officer, said:
"Innovative collaborations are playing a crucial role in finding
ways to unlock the potential of new treatments. The UK has a strong
heritage of research excellence in life sciences. We hope that in
sharing these valuable clinical compounds with academic scientists
through the MRC, new discoveries will be made by exploring
additional uses of these compounds.”
Simon Denegri, Chair of INVOLVE, the UK's national advisory group
on public involvement, said: "This collaboration is exciting news,
not just for scientists but for patients as well. Although it may
take some time to unearth their true potential, these compounds
could hold the key to a better understanding of a whole range of
diseases including rarer conditions and may lay the foundations for
the treatments of tomorrow. I hope we’ll look back on this day as a
landmark moment, which set the tone for industry and academia
collaborations of the future and a huge step towards medical
discoveries that will improve the lives of millions of people.”
David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said:
“This landmark agreement is a real boost for British science. It
will give our world-leading research base new insights into disease
and encourage the development of groundbreaking new treatments. This
will keep the UK at the very forefront of biomedical research and
drive growth and innovation in our life sciences industry.”
The rights to intellectual property (IP) generated using the
compounds will vary from project to project but will be equitable
and similar to those currently used in academically-led research.
AstraZeneca will retain rights over the chemical composition of the
compounds, which have taken millions of pounds to develop so far,
and any new research findings will be owned by the academic
The call for applications opens today. A two-stage process will
be used to identify projects that are feasible, do not duplicate
existing studies and do not directly contribute to AstraZeneca
development programmes. Any potential projects which duplicate or
overlap AstraZeneca’s active development programmes will not be
eligible for MRC funding, but the company may choose to work with
the researchers directly.
New research arising from the collaboration will be published and
communicated to the broader scientific community.