The Medical Research Council (MRC) has awarded $11.3 million of funding for 15 research projects awarded through its collaboration with global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which gave academic researchers unprecedented access to 22 chemical compounds.
Scientists will use the compounds to study a broad range of conditions from common diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and lung disease to rarer conditions such as motor neurone disease and muscular dystrophies. Eight of the projects will involve clinical human trials of potential new therapies, and seven will focus on earlier work in laboratory and animal models. All the projects will increase the understanding of human disease and accelerate the search for innovative treatments.
The MRC-AstraZeneca compound collaboration was first announced in December 2011. AstraZeneca made 22 of its chemical compounds available free-of-charge to scientists, who were encouraged to apply for MRC funding to use them in medical research with the ultimate aim of benefitting patients. AstraZeneca had conducted early trials of these compounds and validated their use for future research, but had put them on hold for further development. This collaboration extends the possible application of these compounds for use in new areas.
“The quality of applications we received for the MRC-AstraZeneca collaboration was higher than we could ever have hoped and we are delighted to be funding 15 excellent projects,” said Patrick Johnston, chair of the MRC’s Translational Research Group. “Thanks to the generosity of AstraZeneca, U.K. scientists will be able to carry out medical research that otherwise may never have been possible. Not only will this bring benefits for patients in the form of more effective medicines and a better understanding of disease, 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.”
After looking at over 100 expressions of interest, the MRC received 23 full funding proposals. The applications were assessed by the MRC, independently of AstraZeneca through international expert peer review, and the 15 successful proposals were selected on the basis of scientific quality and importance.
The rights to intellectual property generated using the compounds will vary from project to project, but will be equitable and similar to those currently used in academically-led research. AstraZeneca will retain its existing rights relating to the compounds and any new research findings by the academic institution will be owned by the academic institution.