AstraZeneca (AZ) recently announced a new academic collaboration, outsourcing nearly all of its neuroscience to Tufts University's School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences to help develop therapies for ailments like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, reported FierceCRO. FierceBiotech reported that the collaboration will also look to find better understandings of neurodevelopmental and autism spectrum disorders.
Under the three-year deal, Tufts will assemble a team of experts led by neuroscience professor Stephen Moss, Ph.D., joining AstraZeneca's in-house investigators at Neuroscience Innovative Medicines (NS iMed). Together, the group will explore neurological pathways in brain disease, helping push new drug compounds and validated targets into AstraZeneca's portfolio, the company said.
Moss is a leading expert in synaptic inhibition, a determinant of neuronal excitability and behavior. He will serve as principal investigator and oversee the research, along with Drs. John Dunlop and Nick Brandon from AstraZeneca. "This collaboration offers an exciting opportunity to translate basic science findings into new treatments for a range of unmet clinical needs," said Dr. Moss.
With NS iMed, "AstraZeneca is rebooting its old models of drug development, matching about 40 in-house R&D experts with CROs, academics and other partners to share costs, rewards and workloads in pursuit of new treatments." Mike Poole, NS iMed vice president, said the near-virtual setup allows AstraZeneca to tap the top talent in the industry without undertaking the budget-breaking R&D work that has sapped up Big Pharma's margins over the past few years.
"AstraZeneca is committed to neuroscience research and we are proud to work with Tufts University on this initiative to advance our understanding of disease pathophysiology," he added.
"The patient need for new treatments across the neuroscience spectrum is growing, and my team has the flexibility to work with the best institutions to advance the science and translate it into new medicines," Poole said in a statement.
Last month, AstraZeneca recruited ePharmaSolutions to join the NS iMed fold, tasking the clinical IT outfit with creating a cloud-based platform that will allow the unit's many collaborators to share complex data from trial sites around the globe. That framework will allow NS iMed to hit the ground running once it has compounds to pursue, AstraZeneca said.
"Like many of its competitors, AstraZeneca has cut deep into its R&D budget of late, and, if successful, NS iMed could demonstrate a new way forward for spend-wary drugmakers. As AstraZeneca Executive Vice President Menelas Pangalos told FierceCRO last fall, Alzheimer's, neuropathic pain, depression and Parkinson's are some of the highest-risk targets in biotech, and the company believes sharing the costs and benefits with third parties will boost its chances of success."
Supporting postdoctoral researchers is an important part of AstraZeneca's commitment to science and the delivery of new medicines across all of the therapy areas in which the company engages, reported FierceBiotech. AstraZeneca currently houses more than 55 internal post docs and regularly hires additional candidates from a range of disciplines including biochemistry, physiology, molecular biology, cell biology, pharmacology, computational biology, chemistry (organic, bioorganic, medicinal, synthetic), biophysics, structural biology, DMPK and pharmaceutical development, the article added.
"AstraZeneca postdoctoral scientists collaborate with leading academic advisors who provide additional support and guidance" and "are encouraged to attend and present at international scientific conferences and publish their findings in peer review journals" the article noted. Further support is provided through a comprehensive training program, including core training on drug discovery and development, and through existing local and global postdoctoral communities within AstraZeneca.