AstraZeneca is linking with Cambridge University to identify, train and mentor biotech start-ups.

The drug giant has become Cambridge Judge Business School’s first life sciences partner to help deliver a new “Accelerate Cambridge Life Sciences” programme that strives to encourage and promote innovation in the area.

According to Christoph Loch, director of the Business School, the agreement with AZ, which is building a new global R&D centre and corporate headquarters in the region, “will help a new generation of life science ventures benefit from the rich and varied expertise that Cambridge provides”.

Menelas Pangalos, chief of Medicines & Early Development at AZ, noted that having access to support and guidance from experienced employees “will not only be invaluable for the participants as they develop their new ventures, but will also be great for our people who will gain exposure to early stage innovation and entrepreneurial thinking outside AstraZeneca.”

The company already has a stream of different agreements in place with the Univesity, including setting up a PhD programme to support future leaders in science.

Completes Actavis deal

Meanwhile, AZ also announced today that it has completed its acquisition of rights to Actavis’ branded respiratory business in the US and Canada.

AZ is paying Actavis $600 million upfront plus low single-digit royalties above a certain revenue threshold, having already paid an additional $100 million for a number of contractual consents and approvals.

The move strengthens the drugmaker’s respiratory franchise globally and builds on its purchase of Almirall’s respiratory portfolio last year.