AstraZeneca has teamed up with the commercial arm of the UK’s Medical Research Council to share access to their collections of compounds.

The companies will combine up to 100,000 compounds from AstraZeneca’s collection with 50,000 from MRC Technology’s library. In the initial phase of the collaboration, the combined libraries will be screened for five biological targets selected by AstraZeneca in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular, neuroscience, and infection. MRC will choose five additional targets to explore.

AstraZeneca and MRC will retain ownership of their respective compounds and individual projects chosen to go forward would trigger option fees. The parties will then negotiate further research and license agreements.

Jin Li, director of global compound sciences at the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, said that “there’s real value in collaborating with organisations such as MRC with a track record of success in biomedical research including new areas of disease biology”. He added that the pact “gives us early access to new disease understanding and related novel drug targets, allowing us to broaden the scope and choice of programmes we take forward”.

Dave Tapolczay, MRC Technology’s chief executive, said the agreement “signals a new era in pharma/academic co-operation”. He concluded by saying that “we are confident this synergistic approach will accelerate the discovery of new therapies for serious human diseases”.