AstraZeneca has unveiled a new joint venture with Europe’s leading cancer centre The Christie that is designed to boost research activities and accelerate patient access to novel oncology medicines.

Under the partnership, The Christie has cherry-picked candidates from the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker’s cancer research portfolio for which it will design and carry out clinical trials.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca told PharmaTimes UK News that nine candidates that have completed Phase I testing were presented to The Christie for consideration, of which the institute has expressed an interest in three for further development.

It is envisaged that at least one trial investigating the selected candidates will be launched every year until the partnership draws to a close in 2014, the groups said, complementing AstraZeneca’s existing in-house oncology clinical research programme.

The joint venture allows The Christie to test the candidates in any indication it chooses as long as AstraZeneca has not expressed an interest in the area, i.e. that trials are not already underway or planned for that indication, and that any combination od drugs The Christie seeks to assess has an “acceptable toxicity profile” in patients.

Under the terms of the partnership, The Christie has the right to file for ownership of any new intellectual property generated by its own innovation, the spokesman told PharmaTimes. In addition, if any product makes it to market for a particular clinical indication discovered by The Christie then the organisation stands to receive a financial benefit from AstraZeneca.

Explaining the rationale behind the move, Brent Vose, Vice President of AstraZeneca’s Oncology Therapy Area, said that the company is aiming to build on its position as a “world leader in cancer treatment”, and that it has several candidates in development for which it is “actively pursuing innovative new ways” to aid their progress.

Improving cancer care
And Caroline Shaw, Chief Executive of The Christie, said the joint venture should help patients get “faster access to the latest drugs as they become available, giving them the best possible treatment and chance of survival”, and that it will “ultimately help improve the quality of care”.

According AstraZeneca’s spokesman, the joint venture was birthed out of “mutual respect and trust” between the two organisations, which first linked hands in 2006 through the signing of a memorandum of understanding to partner in looking for opportunities to work closer together.

Since then, the groups have been involved in various different projects, such as establishing a clinical pharmacology scheme for training PhD students in clinical research, the development of novel imaging methods designed to image cancer tumours in 3D, and investigating how drugs interact with radiotherapy, amongst others.