Designing next generation therapeutics: AZ launches global R&D postdoctoral challenge

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/coffeekai
© GettyImages/coffeekai

Related tags Drug discovery Cancer

The initiative is seeking proposals from final year MD, PhD students and postdoctoral researchers in relation to drug discovery and development across AstraZeneca’s core disease areas.

Successful proposals for AstraZeneca's challenge will secure fully funded postdoctoral research positions, of two years duration, at one of the company's R&D facilities. There is an option to extend the role for a third year.

The pharma giant has three strategic R&D centers including The Discovery Centre (DISC)​ in Cambridge in the UK, one in Gaithersburg, Maryland in the greater Washington, DC region of the US, and another in Gothenburg in Sweden, as well as further hubs across the world.

The company is looking for innovative research proposals ​focused around:

  • Enhancing the understanding of disease biology
  • Designing next generation therapeutics
  • Pioneering new approaches to drive success in the clinic

The challenge, it signaled, is linked to the company’s goals of building and investing in scientific capabilities and technologies to help it advance science.

The expert view:

Professor Christopher Lowe, emeritus professor of biotechnology in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, director of the Institute of Biotechnology and director of the Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK, reckons the challenge "creates an entrepreneurial environment for the next generation of young scientists that will fuel developments in novel science across the world, thereby opening the door for research ideas to be translated into potential treatments of the future.”

“Our approach is to identify and treat patients earlier in their disease when the chance for cure is higher, to target treatment to patients most likely to benefit, and to build effective combinations that address different mechanisms driving cancer. By putting all of these together, we are confident that we can improve the prospects for long-term survival and cure. I am looking forward to seeing the innovative ideas from the R&D postdoctoral challenge that will help us meet our ambition," ​commented Dr Susan Galbraith, executive vice president, oncology R&D, AZ.

Mentoring program

The individuals awarded a research position will have access to novel tools and technologies, compounds, expertise and mentoring, along with support for professional development including congress presentations and scientific publications, said the drug maker.

Shortlisted applicants are required to pitch their research ideas to a judging panel​ consisting of AstraZeneca and external life science leaders in October, with the selection of finalists decided later in the year.

Entries open today [March 17] and close on May 26, 2022. Proposals will be reviewed based on scientific merit, and their potential to create real impact for patients, society, and healthcare systems, said the company.

The anticipated start date for the postdoctoral positions is Q1 2023.

In 2021 AstraZeneca invested $8bn in R&D, around 21% of turnover. Of the company’s 80,000 employees, more than 13,000 work exclusively in R&D. "Our R&D approach is evolving from symptom control to disease modification, focusing on earlier and smarter interventions that defy the natural course of disease. By reaching more patients earlier, we aim to slow disease progression and drive remission."

The company flagged the almost six-fold improvement in the proportion of its pipeline molecules that have advanced from preclinical investigation to completion of Phase III clinical trials since 2005: 4% to 23%.

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