In the first agreement, scientists at the Cancer Research UK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Manchester will develop potential new drugs which target a key protein involved in DNA damage response. AstraZeneca will provide the preliminary compounds, the basic building blocks for the development of the drugs, as well as the shape and structure of the target to best determine which compounds can interact with it.
AstraZeneca has first rights to the molecules discovered through the agreement and can choose to continue further development after the agreement. In return, Cancer Research Technology will receive royalty payments when the project reaches certain milestones and has the option to develop the molecules further if AstraZeneca declines to do so.*
In an additional agreement, AstraZeneca has invited Cancer Research UK scientists from the Paterson Institute to test a potential drug target against AstraZeneca’s compound collection at Alderley Park to see if any could potentially work as a new cancer drug. This is the first time that AstraZeneca has invited an external party to screen such an extensive set of compounds within its screening facility.
AstraZeneca will provide the important clinical and molecular information on any promising molecules, and Cancer Research UK scientists at the Paterson Institute will then have the opportunity to develop to a defined stage. AstraZeneca will have first rights of negotiation on any promising drug targets as a result of the extensive testing at the compound collection at Alderley Park.
Susan Galbraith, head of the AstraZeneca Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit, said: “Part of AstraZeneca’s strategy in the fight against cancer is to forge partnerships with leading academic and medical institutions. We believe the UK is on the cutting-edge of cancer research and that by working together we can ultimately bring the most value to patients. Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca have an ongoing collaboration to tap into the cancer research expertise in the UK to deliver investigator-led studies of combinations of novel agents. This highlights the growing strategic relationship between cancer scientists from UK-based biopharmaceutical companies, charities and academic institutions.”
DNA repair is a key area of interest for cancer drug discovery. Cells contain DNA which holds the cell’s instructions in the form of genes. But, DNA is continuously damaged by processes within a cell as well as harmful elements such as ultraviolet radiation or tobacco smoke.
In response to damage, DNA repair mechanisms mend DNA, but occasionally make mistakes. Over time these mistakes build up, and if located within important genes involved in cell growth, cells can multiply out of control, causing cancer. Drugs that interfere with DNA repair mechanisms show great potential to treat a wide range of cancers.
Dr Donald Ogilvie at Cancer Research UK’s Paterson Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Manchester, said: “DNA damage causes cancer. By directly targeting this pathway for drug discovery we are getting to the heart of the disease and working to translate Cancer Research UK’s world-class research into cancer treatments.”
Dr Phil L’Huillier, Cancer Research Technology’s director of business development, said: “We’re delighted to reach this agreement with AstraZeneca. This is an exciting opportunity to develop potentially novel compounds targeting emerging areas of cancer biology. This work demonstrates how industry and academia can work together and use their experience to develop projects that may otherwise have never progressed and deliver patient benefits sooner.”
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*Further information to be published in a presentation at the European Laboratory Robotics Interest Group (ELRIG) Drug Discovery Conference which will be held at Manchester Central on the 3-4 September 2013.