MRC forges two new deals with industry to speed drug discovery

Building on the MRC’s strong track record in establishing innovative collaborations with industry, the MRC has formed partnerships with two global pharmaceutical companies, UCB and AstraZeneca

The collaborations will help speed translation of discovery research into potential therapies by giving academic researchers the chance to use industry infrastructure and expertise to further discovery science research.

Chris Watkins, Director of Innovation at the MRC, said: “We are really excited to have negotiated these industry-led collaborations that bring together the best UK-based scientists with the best technology in UK-based industry.

"Through access to AstraZeneca and UCB’s state-of-the-art technology we are hoping that these collaborations will enable scientists to deepen their understanding of disease, identify new therapeutic targets and kick-start the search for new medicines."

High-throughput screening is a tool that has been used by industry for decades to search for small molecules with potential for use as future therapies. Developments in robotics and technology mean facilities can now screen more than 300000 compounds per day, helping to make the process of drug discovery smarter, faster and cheaper.

Successful applicants will have access to AstraZeneca’s drug discovery robotics platform (NiCoLA-B) and a high-quality, chemically-diverse compound collection of over two million compounds.

Mark Wigglesworth, Director of High Throughput Screening at AstraZeneca, said: “AstraZeneca is committed to creating a truly innovative and collaborative research environment and this first-of-its-kind initiative will enable our teams to work side by side with world-leading MRC scientists."

AstraZeneca and the MRC share the same passion to push the boundaries of science to accelerate drug discovery and the development of new medicines here in the UK.

The other opportunity is the UCB Antibody Discovery Initiative. Scientists can apply for access to cutting-edge technologies to discover therapeutic antibodies. Several early steps in the process are now automated to expand the capacity, increase the speed and improve the consistency of the antibody discovery process.

Biologics, including therapeutic antibodies, are becoming increasingly important in the treatment of disease. Thirty years on from commercial development of the first therapeutic monoclonal antibody, by Sir Greg Winter at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, monoclonal antibodies are used to treat a wide range of diseases, including cancer and autoimmune conditions.

Neil Weir, Head of Discovery Research at UCB, said: “UCB is committed to increasing our collaborative networks to accelerate scientific discovery. We want to facilitate industry-academic interaction to generate potential therapeutics to benefit patients suffering with severe diseases. This joint initiative with the MRC is a world-leading collaboration between academia and industry with the aim of enhancing the pace of new drug discovery and improving patient outcomes.”

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