AstraZeneca gets Full Marks for Growth Strategy

AstraZeneca solidifies its links with academics and the scholarly elite as it signs two R&D deals with Cancer Research UK and the University of Manchester – and announces its plans to relocate its HQ to Cambridge.



After a lean development year in-house, British drugmaker AstraZeneca (AZ) deepens its collaboration with university researchers to help to find new cancer drugs. Many drug companies have been looking externally for drug development assistance and AZ have taken to the concept with much enthusiasm.  Just last month, AstraZeneca and Cancer Research UK launched a new trial of AZD3965, an innovative new therapy that could be used to combat multiple cancer variants.

A helping hand

This latest agreement involves AZ supplying the preliminary compounds and target indicators for further development to scientists at the Cancer Research UK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, at the University of Manchester, who hope to advance these compounds to market.  The new drugs are intended to fight against a key protein involved in DNA damage response.

In response to DNA damage, in-built repair mechanisms kick in but can make mistakes which, if located within important genes involved in cell growth, can lead to cancer. Drugs that interfere with DNA repair mechanisms, therefore, are a key area of interest for cancer drug research.

In an attempt to further the drive for new drugs, the Paterson scientists have also been invited onsite by AZ to test a potential drug target against the drug manufacturer’s extensive compound collection at Alderley Park – the first time an external party has ever been asked to view AZ’s set of compounds within its screening facility.

In both deals, the Anglo-Swedish firm have established first rights to any promising drug targets or molecules discovered through use of their compounds on either site but they will share relevant clinical and molecular information on any promising molecules with their collaborators. Cancer Research will also be able to develop the molecules further if AstraZeneca opts not to – and Cancer Research Technology (Cancer Research’s commercial arm) will receive royalty payments whenever the project achieves certain milestones.

Susan Galbraith, head of the AstraZeneca oncology innovative medicines unit said, “part of AstraZeneca’s strategy in the fight against cancer is to forge partnerships with leading academic and medical institutions. We believe the UK is on the cutting-edge of cancer research and that by working together we can ultimately bring the most value to patients.”

“This highlights the growing strategic relationship between cancer scientists from UK-based biopharmaceutical companies, charities and academic institutions.”

Cancer Research and AZ are already familiar, working in close proximity towards the end goal of improving patient health. This includes the £34 million UK government funded partnership between AZ, Cancer Research, the University of Strathclyde, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and others.

Global strategy

Meanwhile, following weeks of speculation over which site it would select for its £330m headquarters relocation investment, ambitious AZ today announced the move of its HQ from London and R&D from Cheshire to the Biomedical Campus next to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.  The pharma giant’s decision to relocate is part of its initiative to establish itself as a global leader in biopharma innovation by creating global R&D centres in the UK, US and Sweden.

By 2016, the new Cambridge hub expects to employ around 2,000 pharmaceutical professionals, including welcoming the 500 highly-skilled workforce who currently work at MedImmune in Granta Park into the fold.  It is to become the company’s largest centre for oncology research, in addition to facilitating scientists focused on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune diseases and conditions of the central nervous system.

AZ chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said: “Cambridge competes on the global stage as a respected innovation hub for life sciences and our choice of site puts us at the heart of this important ecosystem, providing valuable collaboration opportunities.”


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