News Feature | July 24, 2014

MRC Links With 7 Big Pharma Firms For Drug Research

By Estel Grace Masangkay

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has partnered with seven global big pharma firms to search new uses for deprioritized pharmaceutical compounds. These are AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly & Co., GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen R&D, Pfizer, Takeda, and UCB.

British researchers will be given access to a virtual library of molecules which have been developed to some degree but have been dropped due to their lack of efficacy in the therapeutic area in which they are being developed. The researchers will explore other uses for the deprioritized compounds in diseases with shared biological pathways.

The deprioritized compounds repurposing project builds on the success of a previous alliance with British drugmaker AstraZeneca in 2011, which has resulted in £7 million funding from the MRC to study projects in cancer, Alzheimer’s, and rare diseases.

Professor Sir John Savill, CEO of the Medical Research Council, said that the compound collaboration with AZ won both interest from the academia as well as funding for research. “We’re now building on this success by expanding into a rolling program with seven companies that will allow the academic community to access even more assets for use in innovative research projects. By funding studies using these compounds, which otherwise would not be carried out, we will enable scientific breakthroughs that will improve the health of patients in the UK and worldwide.”

The new initiative has no set funding, allowing the compounds to be made available through the MRC’s normal response-mode funding mechanism. The complete list of available compounds will be published later in 2014 concurrent with UK researchers’ application for funding.

Stephen Whitehead, CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said, “This partnership between the Medical Research Council (MRC) and seven pharmaceutical companies is a fantastic example of open innovation that benefits both industry and academia by opening up new interesting avenues for research that may not otherwise be available, or even redirecting towards other diseases.”

MRC said it hopes that more pharmaceutical companies and more compounds will be added to the program as it progresses.