Pharma giants plan new public–private collaborations


Two new private-public drug discovery partnerships, to be based in Cambridge, UK, have been announced. AstraZeneca (AZ) will partner with the Medical Research Council (MRC), incorporating MRC staff and screening projects in its new Cambridge site, while the nearby Wellcome Trust Genome Campus will host a new centre for target validation studies, jointly founded with the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

The partnership between AZ and the MRC will see around 15 MRC-funded researchers working alongside staff at AZ’s lead discovery at the company’s planned site in Cambridge, using the centre’s high-throughput screening facilities. AZ will then have first refusal on licences coming out of any drug discovery programmes that result from the research. The collaboration will run for five years initially, with some projects starting at AstraZeneca’s existing facilities in 2015. ‘This is a unique collaboration that will give MRC researchers unparalleled access to AstraZeneca’s state-of-the-art screening capabilities, world-leading infrastructure and an extensive, high quality compound library,’ MRC chief executive John Savill said in a statement. ‘It is an exciting move that will fast-track research that might not otherwise have been carried out.’

Meanwhile, around 50 researchers from the Wellcome Trust, EMBL-EBI and GSK will establish the centre for therapeutic target validation (CTTV) at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus near Cambridge, which will bring together expertise in genomics, proteomics, chemistry and epidemiology to work on pre-competitive target validation. Initial projects will be funded by a multimillion pound contribution by GSK.

‘The pre-competitive nature of the centre is critical,’ said EMBL-EBI associate director Ewan Birney, who has been appointed as interim head of the CTTV. ‘The collaboration of EMBL-EBI and the Sanger Institute with GSK allows us to make the most of commercial R&D practice, but the data and information will be available to everyone.’ The collaborators hope to attract other companies and academic institutions once the CTTV has been established.


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