Medical research charity MRC Technology and AstraZeneca are partnering to launch an initiative to find new epigenetic drug targets in respiratory disease.

The groups are now seeking academics with relevant epigenetics targets to work with on developing novel treatments for respiratory diseases affecting millions of people every year.

"By combining our expertise, we will generate more opportunities to translate early stage academic research into potential new therapies to benefit patients," explained Dr Justin Bryans, director, Drug Discovery, at MRCT. "We are aiming to accelerate the development of novel small molecule drugs that can specifically target epigenetic pathways involved in respiratory diseases."

Of particular interest is researchers studying epigenetic mechanisms involved in respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, but the groups have also put out a call for those interested in epigenetic modulators acting in biological pathways relevant to respiratory, inflammatory or autoimmune disease.

Drug discovery projects will be a multidisciplinary collaboration between academic scientists, AstraZeneca and MRCT, with the latter two providing proprietary small molecule collections, assay development and screening, medicinal chemistry, access to disease models for testing the molecules and project oversight.

"This unique collaboration will allow us to work with a strong academic consortium and the best academic translational scientists across the world to advance medical science and accelerate the search for new treatments," noted Maarten Kraan, Head of the Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmune Innovative Medicines Unit at AstraZeneca.