AstraZeneca is linking arms with US biopharma BERG in a research collaboration aiming to identify and evaluate novel targets and therapeutics to treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, with the help of artificial intelligence.

Under the arrangement, AZ will initially provide BERG with its curated library of central nervous system (CNS) optimised fragments, which the firm will then use to search for new drug candidates for therapeutic development.

BERG will employ its Interrogative Biology platform to identify potential therapies by applying algorithm- and probability-based artificial intelligence to analyse the data.

“Through this research collaboration, we can approach drug discovery in an innovative new way using BERG's artificial intelligence platform," said Dr Iain Chessell, head of Neuroscience at AZ.

"We look forward to collaborating with BERG to help us identify new therapeutic targets that can potentially benefit patients with neurological disorders, an area of significant unmet medical need."

Further terms of the deal, including financial details, were not disclosed at this time.

More than 10 million people are thought to be living with Parkinson's disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that adversely affects movement, around the globe, but there remains a significant unmet medical need for patients.

Faslodex approval
Meanwhile, the group also announced that it has secured expanded approval in the US for its breast cancer therapy Faslodex (fulvestrant), allowing earlier use of the drug.

The US Food and Drug Administration has now approved its use as monotherapy to treat women with hormone-receptor positive (HR+), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 negative (HER2-) advanced breast cancer, who have gone through menopause and have not received previous endocrine therapy.

First approved in 2002, Faslodex was used as a monotherapy for the treatment of postmenopausal women with HR+ MBC whose cancer had progressed following prior anti-oestrogen therapy. Last year, the FDA also cleared its use in combination with palbociclib for the treatment of women with HR+, HER2- advanced or MBC, whose cancer has progressed after endocrine therapy.

The decision comes after data from the FALCON trial showed a statistically-significant increase in investigator-assessed median progression-free survival in patients taking Faslodex - with a median PFS of 16.6 months versus 13.8 months for those receiving the aromatase inhibitor anastrozole, representing a 20 percent reduction in the risk of disease progression or death.

The trial “provides evidence that using fulvestrant as the first option for previously untreated hormone receptor-positive advanced breast cancer will prolong the time before the disease advances and alternative therapies are required,” noted Matthew Ellis, director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, part of the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine.

EU regulators also widened the scope of the drug to include its first-line use in July.