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AstraZeneca, U of Cambridge Collaboration to Include R&D into Neurodegenerative Diseases

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – AstraZeneca and its wholly owned subsidiary MedImmune announced on Thursday collaborations with the University of Cambridge, including one aimed at research into neurodegenerative diseases.

The collaborations reinforce AstraZeneca's plans to create a "permeable research infrastructure" in Cambridge and follows the pharma firm's location of one of its three global R&D centers and its global headquarters in the city, it said. The partners also have an existing partnership that includes an oncology research program and the co-location of AstraZeneca researchers at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.

As part of this week's agreement, a three-year collaboration between AstraZeneca, MedImmune, and the University of Cambridge will focus on R&D into neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis. AstraZeneca and MedImmune will provide to the university's researchers access to molecular tools, screening capabilities, and drug development expertise to facilitate novel target and biomarker discovery and validation.

The university will contribute expertise in disease biology, experimental models, and tissue samples. The research, which will be conducted at MedImmune and the University of Cambridge laboratories, is intended to fill in gaps in drug discovery, translational biomarkers, and personalized healthcare approaches to neurodegenerative disorders, the partners said.

"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," Alastair Compston, a professor of neurology at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.

Other collaborations between the partners include a material transfer agreement that provides the university's scientists access to compounds in AstraZeneca's pipeline, such as the EGFR-inhibitor AZD9291 for non-small cell lung cancer; the PARP-inhibitor olaparib; the mTOR-inhibitor AZD2014; and the AKT-inhibitor AZD5363.

MedImmune and the University of Cambridge also are collaborating on a doctoral training program, as well as an entrepreneur-in-resident program for academic researchers at the university interested in the commercial applications of their work.