AstraZeneca to collaborate with Cancer Research UK in screening for new cancer medicines at the AstraZeneca MRC UK Centre for Lead Discovery

AstraZeneca and Cancer Research UK today announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding through which Cancer Research UK drug discovery investigators would be given access to state-of-the-art drug discovery facilities at the new AstraZeneca MRC UK Centre for Lead Discovery to be built in Cambridge.

As part of the five-year collaboration scientists from Cancer Research UK, through it’s Drug Discovery Units, will benefit from unprecedented access to over two million molecules in AstraZeneca’s compound library and world class screening tools at the facility which will be located within the new AstraZeneca site at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

High-throughput screening methods will be used to identify lead compounds within the compound library including fragment-based lead generation, in which small chemical fragments are screened against drug targets; screening of a collection of compounds potentially useful for blocking kinase drug targets, and phenotypic screens to identify active compounds within cells that could be starting points for new drugs.

Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca screening scientists will work alongside each other on up to five drug screens annually. Cancer Research UK will decide which novel cancer drug discovery projects to investigate and AstraZeneca has the option to negotiate a commercial license with Cancer Research Technology, Cancer Research UK’s commercial arm, to progress the most promising candidates through further drug discovery and development.

Alexa Smith, Cancer Research UK’s Head of Translational Research Funding said: “Having access to AstraZeneca’s extensive compound library and innovative drug discovery technology will help our researchers quickly translate new discoveries into patient benefit. We hope this initial proposed agreement will develop into a longer term arrangement that will boost our drug discovery capabilities further, with scope to develop similar strategic partnerships with other leading drug discovery organisations in future.”

Chris Watkins, Director of Translation and Industry at the MRC, said: “It’s fantastic to see the AstraZeneca MRC UK Centre for Lead Discovery attracting another potential innovative collaboration so soon after its inception. Cancer Research UK will bring world-leading expertise in oncology research that fits well with the collaborative spirit of the planned MRC and AstraZeneca partnership and contribute further to building a thriving UK research base and closer engagement between academic and industry scientists.”

Menelas Pangalos, Executive Vice President, Innovative Medicines and Early Development, AstraZeneca said: “We’re delighted to build on our strong relationship with Cancer Research UK. This research programme at the AstraZeneca MRC UK Centre for Lead Discovery demonstrates how we will create a truly permeable research environment at our new site in Cambridge. We intend for our scientists to work alongside leading Cancer Research UK scientists, taking advantage of our world-class facilities, to push the boundaries of science and accelerate oncology drug discovery.”