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May 16, 2014

AstraZeneca, MRC Launch $15M Preclinical Research Fund

  • AstraZeneca and the U.K. Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC LMB) will spend a combined £9 million ($15 million) over the next five years in a collaboration aimed at funding preclinical research projects examining fundamental processes that underlie normal function and disease.

    News of the new fund comes less than two months after AstraZeneca and MRC agreed to create a joint research site at the new research center the pharma giant is creating in Cambridge, U.K. The AstraZeneca MRC U.K. Centre for Lead Discovery is set to open with the company’s new site in 2016.

    Yesterday, AstraZeneca said it will contribute about two-thirds or £6 million ($10 million) into a joint fund with MRC LMB, a research institute whose work has included the sequencing of DNA and development of monoclonal antibodies. MRC LMB will chip in the remaining roughly one-third or £3 million ($5 million), plus in-kind scientific knowledge and technologies.

    Both funders would jointly decide which projects to support via the fund. Projects supported by the fund would be precompetitive and not be specifically targeted towards drug development. Instead, the organizations said, the projects would feed into their existing R&D activities, with the results published in peer reviewed journals.

    The projects are likely to involve scientists from the two organizations working together, either within research facilities of AstraZeneca and its worldwide biologics R&D arm MedImmune, or at the MRC LMB labs at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. The campus is where the pharma giant plans to create a strategic R&D center and global corporate headquarters—a plan Pfizer has promised to carry out should it succeed in its effort to acquire AstraZeneca.

    “The aim of this joint fund will be to encourage truly innovative scientific thinking. We want to enable and encourage our scientists to push the boundaries of science, on the door step of our Cambridge headquarters, with one of the best scientific institutes in the world,” Menelas Pangalos, evp of innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

    Sir Hugh Pelham, director of the MRC LMB, added that the joint fund “would further strengthen our existing and long standing relationship with AstraZeneca, allowing our scientists to work together, sharing ideas and expertise for the benefit of patients.” 


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