AstraZeneca has linked up with the Columbia University Medical Center in New York to develop novel therapeutics primarily in type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The collaboration, which will have a secondary focus on atherosclerosis and dyslipidaemia, will focus on discovering mechanisms and identifying new biological targets "for intervention that have the potential of being starting points for successful and commercially viable treatments to tackle these diseases", the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker stated. The market for new approaches is certainly there as obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults and 150 million children overweight. It is estimated that almost 250 million people between the ages of 20-79 have diabetes and 3.8 million deaths are attributable to the disease each year.

Rudolph Leibel, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at CUMC, said "our mutual focus on novel and translational science is an excellent fit" and "active, ongoing scientific exchange will be the basis for this collaboration". He added that the two groups are in the process of establishing the joint project teams "that will work to translate biological concepts developed in experimental models to patients".

Jan Lundberg, executive vice president of discovery research at AstraZeneca, said that "with this being our first metabolic related disease research collaboration with a US academic medical centre, we are very excited to be teaming up with such a distinguished and like-minded partner”. No financial details of the pact were disclosed.

Deal with big pharma partners and Quebec
Staying with partnerships, AstraZeneca is linking up with Pfizer and Merck Frosst in Canada to collaborate with the Quebec government on a new initiative dedicated to stimulating research into drug development. The Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery, which will focus on the pre-competitive stages of discovery, will see each of the companies contribute C$1 million in the first year of the , while Pfizer and AstraZeneca are also planning to invest C$1 million a year over the next four years.