A new centre dedicated to the discovery of novel drugs, involving academics and industry, is being set up in the UK.

The MRCT Centre for Therapeutics Discovery, which will be based in London, is being created by the Medical Research Council and MRC Technology. The founders say that it will build on the existing work of the MRCT Drug Discovery Group, and its aim is to expand “current capability and capacity to provide the UK with a national drug discovery resource with the critical mass to progress high quality projects towards clinical benefit”.

The CTD, which will commence work immediately, is looking to collaborate with scientists in universities and MRC units to develop drug discovery projects that target diseases for which there is significant unmet need. The centre says that it will apply state of the art computational and medicinal chemistry to produce ‘drug-like’ molecules with potential to become therapies.

The new entity is going to focus on developing novel antibody therapies, “bringing to bear its world-class expertise in antibody humanisation technology”. Already, this capability has been successfully exploited to partner several therapeutic antibodies identified from within the MRC research base. It has also enabled the launch of two antibody-based drugs – Biogen Idec/Elan Corp’s multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab) and Roche’s Actemra (tocilizumab) for rheumatoid arthritis.

Leszek Borysiewicz,, the MRC’s chief executive, said: that “this centre of national excellence, in forming partnerships with academia, will provide a focus of knowledge and expertise”. He added that it will support innovation “and provide a training ground for the next generation of scientists across Britain.”

His counterpart at the MRCT, David Tapolczay, noted that for the first time, UK academics will have a dedicated centre with which to collaborate “and progress their science to deliver tangible clinical benefit”. In so doing, “this initiative will help the UK to retain its world-leading reputation for innovation in drug discovery.” He added.

The CTD will have an operating budget of £6million, which will be secured from a number of sources, including MRC translational funding and royalty income from any products.