AstraZeneca and Cambridge University have shaken hands on arguably the biggest life science-academia collaboration programme the UK has ever witnessed.

The four-strand strategy not only lays the foundations for unprecedented research collaborations between industry and academic scientists but also enhances life science teaching within the university  and will help more students become life science entrepreneurs.

The quartet of initiatives are being delivered by AstraZeneca and its biologics R & D arm MedImmune which, through its previous iteration as Cambridge Antibody Technology, has now been in the UK innovation hotspot for a quarter of a century.

The collaboration covers:-

• Neuroscience research

• Access for university researchers to key AZ compounds

• A PhD programme to support future leaders in science

• A new entrepreneur-in-residence programme

The four new collaborations building on AZ’s existing partnership with the university which includes a substantial oncology research programme and co-location of AstraZeneca scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute – the largest single facility conducting cancer research in the University of Cambridge.

A  three-year collaboration between AstraZeneca, MedImmune and the University of Cambridge will focus on advancing research and development in neurodegenerative diseases, an area with a large unmet medical need.

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 world-leading expertise in disease biology, experimental models and tissue samples, while AstraZeneca and MedImmune will provide access to molecular tools, screening capabilities and leading drug development expertise to enable novel target and biomarker discovery and validation. The research will be carried out at MedImmune and the University of Cambridge laboratories, with opportunities for investigators to work alongside each other and share knowledge.

“This strategic partnership will promote an increased understanding of disease mechanisms and enable work in basic neuroscience to address unmet therapeutic needs in a variety of serious neurodegenerative diseases,” said Professor Alastair Compston, Professor of Neurology, speaking on behalf of Cambridge Neuroscience, University of Cambridge.

“We look forward to working with scientists from MedImmune and AstraZeneca to increase knowledge on brain function and apply this to common neurological conditions.”

A pivotal Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) will give researchers from the university access to key compounds from AstraZeneca’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.

The collaboration between MedImmune and the university includes a doctoral training programme whereby PhD candidates will spend significant time at the University of Cambridge and in MedImmune’s laboratories, jointly supervised by the organisations during their four-year studentship.

The entrepreneur-in-residence programme will offer guidance and mentorship to academic researchers at the University of Cambridge 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.

Bahija Jallal, executive VPresident, MedImmune, said: “We are excited to establish this prestigious strategic alliance between AstraZeneca, MedImmune and the University of Cambridge to progress high quality scientific research. We will work together to discover and develop new medicines that could have a significant impact on the health of patients with neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.”

Mene Pangalos, Executive VP of Innovative Medicines & Early Development, AstraZeneca – who is also steering the company’s wholescale move to Cambridge Biomedical Campus –added:  “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.”

As previously announced, AstraZeneca and medImmune are also sponsoring a new Life Science Innovation category of the just launched 25th Anniversary Business Weekly Awards .

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