Cancer Research UK, the University of Manchester and AstraZeneca have signed two new deals on developing cancer drugs.

In the first agreement, scientists at the Cancer Research UK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, at the University of Manchester, will develop potential new drugs which target a key protein involved in DNA damage response.

AstraZeneca will provide the preliminary compounds, the basic building blocks for the development of the drugs, as well as the shape and structure of the target to best determine which compounds can interact with it.

AstraZeneca said in a statement that it has first rights to the molecules discovered through the agreement, and can choose to continue further development after the deal ends.

In return, Cancer Research Technology – the commercial arm of CRUK - will receive royalty payments when the project reaches certain milestones, and also has the option to develop the molecules further if AstraZeneca declines to do so.

In the second deal, AstraZeneca has invited Cancer Research UK scientists from the Paterson Institute to test a potential drug target against AstraZeneca’s compound collection at Alderley Park, to see if any could potentially work as a new cancer drug.

This will be the first time that AstraZeneca has invited an external party to screen an extensive set of compounds within its screening facility.

The Anglo-Swedish firm will also provide clinical and molecular information on any promising molecules, and Cancer Research UK scientists at the Paterson Institute will then have the opportunity to develop to a defined stage.

AstraZeneca will have first rights of negotiation on any promising drug targets as a result of the extensive testing at the compound collection at Alderley Park.

Susan Galbraith, head of the AstraZeneca oncology innovative medicines unit, said: “Part of AstraZeneca’s strategy in the fight against cancer is to forge partnerships with leading academic and medical institutions. We believe the UK is on the cutting-edge of cancer research and that by working together we can ultimately bring the most value to patients.

“This highlights the growing strategic relationship between cancer scientists from UK-based biopharmaceutical companies, charities and academic institutions.”

Dr Phil L’Huillier, Cancer Research Technology's director of business development, said: “We’re delighted to reach this agreement with AstraZeneca. This is an exciting opportunity to develop potentially novel compounds targeting emerging areas of cancer biology.

“This work demonstrates how industry and academia can work together and use their experience to develop projects that may otherwise have never progressed and deliver patient benefits sooner.”

CRUK and AstraZeneca already have a number of agreements in place, including a deal last week that saw the firm in a £34 million government funded partnership between the CRUK, the University of Strathclyde, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and others.