MRC to fund 15 AstraZeneca research collaborations

 The Medical Research Council (MRC) has committed £7m funding to support 15 academic drug research projects using compounds from AstraZeneca.

The collaborations are expected to improve our knowledge of ways to treat major diseases such as dementia and cancer, as well as rare diseases such as motor neurone disease.

AstraZeneca made 22 pharmaceutical compounds, which it had validated as suitable for further research, available to medical researchers in December 2011.

Eight of the research projects will involve clinical trials of new drug candidates, while the other seven will involve laboratory and animal models.

“This landmark collaboration will see our leading scientists working with industry to find new insights into disease,” added David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science. “It will speed up the search for innovative treatments and keep the UK at the forefront of biomedical research, which will in turn drive growth and deliver benefits for patients.”

The MRC received 23 full funding proposals, which it assessed independently of AstraZeneca. The recipients include research teams at universities in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Bristol.

The announcement was welcomed by the BioIndustry Association (BIA), whose Chief Executive Steve Bates said: “Today’s funding announcement signals the beginning of an exciting coming together of academia, industry and government to create new pathways to develop novel therapies for a range of serious conditions.

“The prospect of de-risking private investment in this way and supporting the development of these products for patients through innovative ways of working shows how the biopharmaceutical sector is responding creatively to the challenge of getting more treatments to market.”