The three-year R&D deal will aim to plug gaps in drug discovery, translational biomarker development and explore opportiunities in personalised medicine for neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
AstraZeneca spokeswoman Karen Birmingham told Biopharma-reporter.com “Cambridge is a world class institution whose great scientists have great brains” explaining that the academics will provide expertise in biology, experimental models and tissue sampling.
“AstraZeneca is excited about creating a permeable research infrastructure though the partnership,” she continued, adding that “the ability to bring researchers in and out in an open research ecosystem is a key benefit of the approach.”
However, while MedImmune’s new collaboration may result in research used in future product development efforts, the deal is not an indication the firm will outsource less discovery work according to Birmingham.
AstraZeneca has been outsourcing more of its discovery work since closing its site in Loughborough in 2011.
News the Cambridge deal does not indicate a strategy change will be welcomed by contract research organisations (CRO) Pharmaron and Charles River Laboratories, which have provided MedImmune’s parent AstraZeneca with discovery services since 2012.
Earlier this week the latter contractor announced that its subsidiary BioFocus has delivered an oral respiratory drug candidate that AstraZeneca was taking into further preclinical development.
MTA for late-stage compounds
AstraZeneca has also agreed to let the Cambridge scientists research its ovarian cancer drug candidate olaparib - currently under European Medicines Agency (EMA) committee review - and several other late-stage compounds under material transfer agreements (MTA).
Birmingham explained that: “Under the MTA, Cambridge scientists can access some of our most important portfolio compounds in a relatively straightforward manner.
“Once a scientist has submitted a proposal and it has been approved, they can quickly access compounds under this agreement which means that the MTA will significantly reduce the time it takes for the external scientist to actually getting on with doing the science in question.”
She added that it would be “fantastic” if the research identifies new potential uses of compounds, either alone or in combination, and added that any such developments would be covered under the IP protections set out under the MTAs.