Researchers Get $11M to Find New Uses for Shelved AZ Drugs

The United Kingdom's Medical Research Council is providing a total of $11 million in funding to 15 research projects that will seek to find new uses for 22 AstraZeneca compounds that had been studied but shelved for a variety of reasons.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

The United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council (MRC) says it is providing a total of $11 million (£7 million) in funding to 15 research projects that will seek to find new uses for 22 AstraZeneca compounds that had been studied but shelved for a variety of reasons. The funding comes about a year after Prime Minister David Cameron announced the collaboration between AstraZeneca and the MRC as part of the U.K. Life Sciences Strategy.

The MRC, through a peer review process, selected the 15 projects based on their scientific quality and importance. The scientists will test the AstraZeneca compounds on a broad range of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and a variety of rare diseases. Eight of the projects will involve human clinical trials, while the other seven will focus on laboratory and animal studies. The MRC received a total of 100 expressions of interest in the funding and 23 full proposals.

The agreement follows other efforts by Big Pharma companies that are seeking to engage in new research models that can lower the risk of research and development, salvage compounds that may have failed in the clinic by finding new uses for them or continue development of drugs that may no longer be part of a company’s core focus areas.

“Partnering across government, academia and industry is a critical way to spur additional scientific innovation and the delivery of new treatments for people who desperately need them,” says Martin Mackay, president of AstraZeneca Research & Development.

The drug giant is providing free supplies of 22 compounds to scientists through the MRC collaboration. AstraZeneca had conducted early work on the compounds and validated their use for future research, but had put further development on hold. The rights to intellectual property generated using the compounds will vary from project to project, but the two said it would be similar to those currently used in academically-led research. AstraZeneca will retain its existing rights relating to the compounds, but academic partners in the collaboration will own any new research findings.

“Not only will this bring benefits for patients in the form of more effective medicines and a better understanding of disease,” says Patrick Johnston, chair of the MRC’s Translational Research Group, “but it has also allowed academic researchers to forge new partnerships with industry, which will give rise to future collaboration across the life sciences sector.”

The MRC awarded the grants to researchers at the University of Manchester, University of Leeds, Royal Veterinary College, University of Sheffield, University College London, University of Glasgow, University of Birmingham, University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, University of Bristol and the MRC Mammalian Genetics unit Harwell.

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