AstraZeneca: Discovering Drugs Through Partnerships

Pharma IQ

Drug discovery projects are not cheap. The start of projects to consider new treatments for a range of diseases can be vast in their scope, meaning the development process can cost a significant amount of money well before the trial stage.

Such concerns have had an impact on how research is approached in the sector, with current trends seeing organisations increase their focus on both outsourcing and partnerships to push forward with their work. Drug development firms of all sizes now view collaborations with other bodies as a fundamental part of their efforts to create innovative new treatments. Such trends are exemplified by a recent announcement made by AstraZeneca.

While the company is a leader in the biopharmaceutical industry for prescription medicines, it still recognises the value of using outside sources to push forward research and development projects. The organisation has announced a new strategic collaboration to share access to its compound collection with Medical Research Council (MRC) Technology.

Through the agreement, the companies will combine up to 100,000 compounds from AstraZeneca's library with MRC Technology's collection of around 50,000. The latter will then screen the resources as it searches for compounds which show activity against novel biological targets. Initially, AstraZeneca has called on biological targets related to cancer, neuroscience, infection and cardiovascular to be considered. A committee will then review relevant hits and consider how they could be used to create medicines.

Jin Li, director of global compounds at AstraZeneca, said the company is keen to "access innovation from external sources" and claimed the deal would offer many benefits.

"There's real value in collaborating with organisations such as MRC Technology with a track record of success in biomedical research including new areas of disease biology," he explained.

"This collaboration gives us early access to new disease understanding and related novel drug targets, allowing us to broaden the scope and choice of programmes we take forward."

AstraZeneca's director of science and technology alliances Alan Lamont said the agreement gave the company an opportunity to generate more value from its compound collection in a manner which could lead to better medicines reaching the market. He added: "We continue to look for ways to maximise the value of our chemical assets externally through a range of collaborations."

MRC Technology has much experience in the area of collaboration, having also recently entered into an agreement with Genentech over an exclusive licence to some small molecule drug candidates for the treatment of neurological conditions.

According to Dave Tapolczay, chief executive of the organisation, the agreement with AstraZeneca marks "a new era in pharma/academic cooperation".

He added: "We're marrying up a high quality compound collection from AstraZeneca with MRC Technology's drug discovery capabilities in assay development, screening and medicinal chemistry, and applying it to exciting novel targets from some of the world’s foremost academic laboratories.

"We are confident this synergistic approach will accelerate the discovery of new therapies for serious human diseases."

AstraZeneca's collaboration with MRC Technology is a significant deal which not only showcases the organisations' expertise, but also the growing trends of both outsourcing and collaboration within the pharmaceutical sector. With the cost of drug development unlikely to be reduced anytime soon, it is likely that such discovery partnerships will become a common sight across the global for many years to come.