Ahead of its plans to relocate part of its R&D operations to Cambridge, AstraZeneca has signed up to three cancer projects in the UK city.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker has entered into an agreement with the University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK for a two-year collaboration on three pre-clinical and clinical oncology projects. They will focus on the study of tumour mutations and new investigational therapies in prostate, pancreatic and potentially other cancers.
The projects include evaluating a new technology that will allow clinicians to monitor the activity of a tumour through blood tests and without the need for biopsies. Another programme will test the investigational treatment olaparib in combination with AZD2014 in high-risk prostate cancer patients.
Another project, working with the Babraham Institute, the CR UK Cambridge Institute and the university's department of oncology at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, will evaluate new therapeutic approaches for patients with pancreatic cancer, "a disease with an extremely poor prognosis and few treatments available"; the latter collaboration will focus on identifying the best drug combinations for AstraZeneca’s investigational compound selumetinib in pre-clinical models.
Susan Galbraith, head of AstraZeneca's oncology innovative medicines Unit, said "it is fitting that the focus of these collaborations is on delivering new medicines for cancer because our Cambridge facility will become AstraZeneca’s largest centre for oncology research". She added that "we look forward to having our scientists work side-by-side with some of the world’s most distinguished medical institutions", noting that the three collaborations "advance our work in the area of personalised healthcare".
The deals come a few weeks after AstraZeneca confirmed it will build a global R&D centre and new corporate headquarters at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, due for completion in 2016.
Meantime, AstraZeneca has signed a deal with German biotech Blackfield, which will see the latter apply its genomics technologies and computational biology capabilities to validate preclinical models in support of one of the former's oncology programmes.
The collaboration marks Blackfield’s fourth partnership with a major pharmaceutical company within one year of starting up. It already has pacts with Johnson & Johnson, Merck KGaA and Boehringer Ingelheim.