Cancer Research UK has been granted access to two million molecules at AstraZeneca's new state-of-the-art facilities being built in Cambridge.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed that will see CR UK scientists get “unprecedented access” to the drugmaker’s compound library and “world-class screening tools” at the AstraZeneca MRC UK Centre for Lead Discovery at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which is due to be completed in 2016.

As part of the five-year collaboration, high-throughput screening methods will be used to identify leads including fragment-based lead generation, in which small chemical fragments are screened against drug targets, screening of compounds potentially useful for blocking kinase drug targets, and phenotypic screens “to identify active compounds within cells that could be starting points for new drugs”.

CRUK and AstraZeneca said their scientists will work alongside each other on up to five drug screens annually and the former will decide which projects to investigate. The latter has the option to negotiate a license with Cancer Research Technology, CR UK’s commercial arm, to progress the most promising candidates.

Alexa Smith, CR UK’s head of translational research funding said that “having access to AstraZeneca’s extensive compound library and innovative drug discovery technology will help our researchers quickly translate new discoveries into patient benefit”. She added that “we hope this initial proposed agreement will develop into a longer term arrangement that will boost our drug discovery capabilities further, with scope to develop similar strategic partnerships with other leading drug discovery organisations in future”.

Mene Pangalos, head of innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca, said the pact “demonstrates how we will create a truly permeable research environment at our new site in Cambridge”.