AstraZeneca launches ‘Open Innovation’ initiative
AstraZeneca has launched a new ‘Open Innovation’ initiative to help it forge better research links with academia, industry, NGOs and governments.
The move is part of a trend across major pharma companies, which are turning their back on the old model of a self-contained and proprietary approach to R&D, and are instead adopting a more collaborative approach.
AstraZeneca is promoting its own version of this concept called Open Innovation and has taken some bold steps to share knowledge and create partnerships with external researchers.
This is particularly important for the firm, which needs to reinvigorate its R&D operations and restore its reputation after a long string of failures in late stage development.
AstraZeneca’s Open Innovation programmes include:
• Clinical Compound Bank of patient-ready ‘live’ and discontinued small molecule compounds and biologics that have shown in clinical trials evidence of human target coverage and tolerability. These are being offered for novel clinical and translational research.
• Pharmacology Toolbox, which comprises compounds with optimised pharmacological properties. These compounds are being made available for preclinical research to explore novel disease biology and advance scientific knowledge.
• Target Innovation collaborations to enable investigators to validate novel molecular, drug targets, which could include the availability of high throughput screening capabilities.
• New Molecule Profiling via advanced cheminformatic capabilities to explore the properties and therapeutic innovation potential of new molecules.
• A new R&D Challenge programme through which researchers can suggest solutions to specific R&D challenges faced by AstraZeneca scientists in ongoing projects.
• A Suggestion Box for researchers to offer, and be rewarded for, broader innovative ideas and solutions to ongoing challenges.
Mene Pangalos, executive vice-president of innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca, said: “To push the boundaries of science and deliver new medicines to patients, we need to create a more permeable research environment, collaborating with academia, industry and government.”
He said that making compounds and knowledge more accessible was a key part of this strategy.
“I’m excited about this new initiative which will help us to engage with researchers who share our passion for the potential of developing life-changing medicines through pioneering science,” he added.
The company’s IMED Biotech unit has just launched a new dedicated web-based platform to co-ordinate access to its Open Innovation initiatives for academia, industry, NGOs and governments.
Don Frail, vice president, emerging innovations, scientific partnering and alliances, AstraZeneca, said: “Through this new site, scientists around the world can submit proposals, ranging from early idea evaluation through to clinical validation studies in what we believe is one of the broadest open innovation platforms in the industry.”
AstraZeneca unveiled a major reorganisation of its R&D strategy 12 months ago in March 2013, overseen by the new chief executive Pascal Soriot.
The firm said it would cut back on spending in anti-infectives and neuroscience in order to focus on a core of therapy areas in 2013. AstraZeneca believes it can become a leader in these three fields; oncology, cardiovascular and metabolic disease; respiratory and autoimmune diseases.
Soriot also announced the relocation of the firm’s UK research base from Alderley Park in the northwest of England and its headquarters in London to a single new site in Cambridge. The move is specifically designed to bring it into closer contact with the cluster of academic and biotech expertise in the city, and will be completed in 2016.
AstraZeneca points to a number of existing open innovation collaborations. These range from compound-sharing to advanced research into treatments for neglected diseases, pre-clinical collaborations to source and validate new compounds against a range of targets, and collaborations in which risks and rewards of drug development programmes are shared among many partners.
Recent examples include: a collaboration with the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the UK to share compounds with academic researchers, partnerships with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Research Program for Biopharmaceuticals (NRPB) in Taiwan.
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