PHILADELPHIA The University of Pennsylvania and AstraZeneca today announced a new collaborative research agreement to make use of their respective talents and resources in an effort to bridge the transition from drug discovery to development. 

Initially, the collaboration between Penn Medicine and AstraZeneca scientists will focus on generating new Alzheimer’s disease (AD) drug candidates for the clinical development pipeline.

In AD, the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are thought to contribute to the destruction of nerve cells in the brain, leading to subsequent symptoms of the disease. In this collaboration, researchers will focus on the protein tau, which is the key component of tangles in AD.

Penn Medicine’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) will provide rapid access to unique state-of–the-art drug compound screening assays and knowledge of the biology of tau – first characterized for its role in dementias by Penn Medicine’s Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, MBA, director of CNDR, and John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, director of the Institute on Aging. AstraZeneca scientists will supply basic research with access to the technologies and skills required to discover and develop new drug molecules.

The agreement allows the parties to work closely together in drug discovery and development, and contains potential royalties and milestone payments linked to successful clinical development and eventual world-wide marketing of tau targeted therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. AstraZeneca has exclusive access to compound IP and study data for any commercial purposes from research performed under this agreement. 

“We are excited about the collaborative drug discovery relationship that CNDR has formed with AstraZeneca, as it builds on the exceptional translational research strengths of the Penn CNDR team in elucidating mechanisms of tau-mediated neurodegeneration in AD,” said Dr. Lee, who along with Dr. Trojanowski and Kurt Brunden, PhD, Director of CNDR Drug Discovery, will lead the CNDR component of this new alliance at Penn. “This collaborative research agreement strongly complements both entities’ AD drug discovery programs and expands opportunities for developing disease-modifying AD therapies.”

No treatment is available to slow or stop the deterioration of brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease. Currently there are an estimated 15-20 million people worldwide with AD; 5.3 million Americans have AD. With the aging population worldwide, this figure is set to increase to more than 50 million people by 2050. Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in America; Alzheimer's disease deaths increased 46.1 percent from 2000-2006, while other selected causes of death decreased.

“This agreement offers the hope of accelerating the pace of drug discovery, particularly important given the global burden of AD,” added Michael Cleare, PhD, Associate Vice-Provost for Research & Executive Director of the Center for Technology Transfer at Penn. “We believe that joint development relationships of this type will become an increasingly important part of our mission, to make research available for the benefit and betterment of society.”

“Finding new therapies that affect tau-mediated neurodegeneration in AD is one key to AstraZeneca’s strategy for fighting this disease. We are pleased to be part of such an innovative collaboration, marrying the world-leading disease understanding of Penn’s CNDR to the drug discovery experience of AstraZeneca,” Johan Lund, Vice President of Discovery Research Area CNS & Pain Control at AstraZeneca in Södertälje, Sweden.

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.

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