In an unusual move AstraZeneca and Sanofi will exchange 210,000 compounds in order to boost their libraries and help launch more drug discovery programmes.

The companies have selected the compounds to exchange based on differences from those in their own libraries. Each company will receive sufficient quantities to enable high throughput screening for several years to determine whether they are active against specific biological targets AZ and Sanofi will also share chemical structures and synthetic procedures to facilitate the use of the compounds.

Each company can investigate the compounds it receives without restrictions on disease areas.

“This is a highly innovative agreement which speaks to our open innovation approach,” said Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca.  “We’ve worked hard to enrich our compound library in recent years and this exchange, which is by far the largest we have achieved, enables us to significantly increase its diversity. Most importantly, it will accelerate our ability to identify unique starting points that could become new medicines for patients.”

Elias Zerhouni, president of global R&D at Sanofi added: “Sanofi is committed to open innovation in our R&D platforms because we recognise that collaboration is the foundation of every medical breakthrough. We are happy to partner with other companies if it will speed the discovery of new life-saving or life-enhancing therapies for patients.”

There are no payments associated with the compound exchange.

Three more partnerships for AZ

AZ has also announced three new partnerships aimed at helping its new MRC UK Centre for Lead Discovery, which will be located within the company’s new global R&D centre at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, in the search for novel small molecule medicines. 

The first is a three-year agreement with HighRes Biosolutions, a global provider of automated robotic systems to the life sciences industry, to develop next generation, intelligent robots for the high throughput screening of compounds.

AZ has also announced a strategic partnership to use the energy of sound waves to dispense compounds directly from individual storage tubes into well plates for testing. This comprises fully-automated liquid handling by Labcyte, automated liquid storage systems by Brooks Automation, and a co-developed acoustic sample storage tube.

Finally, the company is hoping that a five-year collaboration with Genedata, a provider of advanced software solutions for drug discovery and life science research will speed data sharing with partners.