AstraZeneca and Karolinska Institutet to create Integrated Translational Research Centre

AZ also collaborates with Moderna Therapeutics on messenger RNA therapeutics

AstraZeneca, which is overhauling its research operations, is to establish an Integrated Translational Research Centre for cardiovascular and metabolic disease and regenerative medicine with the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet.

The Centre, to be located at the University’s site in Stockholm, Sweden will conduct preclinical and clinical studies to advance the understanding of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and assess new drug targets for AstraZeneca’s two biotech units, AstraZeneca Innovative Medicines and Early Development (iMed) and MedImmune.

The Centre will initially run for five years and will be made up of between 20 and 30 scientists, including a number from AstraZeneca.

The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical firm will also contribute up to US$20m a year, while Karolinska Institutet will contribute expertise and facilities. The Centre is expected to be operational by the middle of the year.

Menelas Pangalos, Executive Vice President of the Innovative Medicines and Early Development biotech unit at AstraZeneca, said: ‘Working side by side and in the same laboratories as scientists from Karolinska Institutet, we can combine AstraZeneca’s resources and drug discovery experience with the world-class research of Karolinska Institutet to dramatically accelerate our understanding of cardiometabolic diseases.’

Working side by side and in the same laboratories as scientists from Karolinska Institutet, we can combine AstraZeneca’s resources and drug discovery experience

Anders Hamsten, President of Karolinska Institutet added: ‘The creation of this research centre means great opportunities for excellent research and development of the healthcare sector. It will also strengthen the Stockholm region as a life science arena as well as the pharmaceutical industry in Sweden.’

The Integrated Translational Research Centre will also feed into a new collaboration between AstraZeneca and Moderna Therapeutics focused on the discovery and development of pioneering messenger RNA therapeutics for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases, as well as cancer.

Messenger RNA therapeutics are a novel technology that enables the body to produce therapeutic protein in vivo, opening up new treatment options for diseases that cannot be addressed using existing technologies.

Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will make an upfront payment of $240m to Moderna Therapeutics, a small biotechnology company based in Cambridge, MA, US.

AstraZeneca will have exclusive rights for five years to drugs using Moderna’s technology to treat cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and some exclusive rights for cancer.

AstraZeneca can choose as many as 40 drugs for development. In addition to the initial $240m, Moderna will be entitled to $180m for achieving certain technical milestones and to payments and royalties on drugs developed by AstraZeneca.

Together with Moderna, we are pushing the boundaries of science in the pioneering field of messenger RNA therapeutics

AstraZeneca will lead the preclinical, clinical development and commercialisation of therapeutics resulting from the agreement and Moderna will be responsible for designing and manufacturing the messenger RNA against selected targets.

Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive of AstraZeneca, said: ‘Together with Moderna, we are pushing the boundaries of science in the pioneering field of messenger RNA therapeutics. Where current drug discovery technologies can target only a fraction of the disease-relevant proteins in the human genome, we have the potential to create completely new medicines to treat patients with serious cardiometabolic diseases and cancer.’

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