Roche and AstraZeneca have launched a medicinal chemistry data-sharing consortium to accelerate drug discovery in a smarter way.

The drug majors say they will share "a specific type of early research data related to drug design, which could further accelerate the discovery of high quality compounds with an increased chance of clinical success". Specifically, they are using a dedicated technology (called Matched Molecular Pair Analysis or MMPA) which they can apply to their compound structures in order to improve their metabolism, pharmacokinetics or safety, "without divulging confidential information about their chemical structures".

The data-sharing will be managed through an intermediary company, the UK's MedChemica, which has expertise in the MMPA technology. The consortium is open to other large companies "to add their knowledge thereby gaining access to and enhancing this resource", Roche and AstraZeneca say, and more data added to this system "will raise the quality and specificity of drug design rules". They also plan to make the data generated available to the broader research community, including charities and academia.

Luca Santarelli, head of neuroscience and small-molecule research at Roche, said it is "unique in the history of our industry that two major players are sharing their know-how at such an early stage of research". He added that "transparency of small molecule optimisation knowledge, in a smart and thoughtful way, could profoundly enhance our ability to design drugs".

Mike Snowden, head of discovery sciences in innovative medicines and early development (IMED), the AstraZeneca unit which initiated the collaboration, said the Anglo-Swerdish drugmaker "has taken multiple steps to both open our compound libraries to those wishing to find exciting new chemistries for early drug discovery and to share compound related datasets that will allow our industry to speed the discovery of new medicines".

He added that researching a potential new drug "is a long race that we strive to complete with urgency to fill unmet medical need. We are making these data sets available in the belief that – when paired with findings from other companies through a common platform – we can reach our patients faster with medicines that make a meaningful difference".