AstraZeneca has joined the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and three universities in contributing a total SEK 510 ($60 million) toward launching a protein research center.
The new Wallenberg Centre for Protein Research aims to be a top-tier international center of excellence in protein research, with an emphasis on studies of human proteins and production of biopharmaceuticals.
The center said it intends to collaborate with medium-sized and large pharmaceutical companies in developing new production technologies for biopharmaceuticals.
The center will use facilities at AlbaNova University Centre at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, SciLife Lab (Stockholm), Uppsala University, and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.
Five research programs will be conducted:
- Development of cell factories for biopharmaceutical production
- Bioproduction of all proteins secreted by humans
- Development of new concepts for antibody therapy
- System biological studies of proteins of interest for drug development
- Mapping the human proteome (i.e. all human proteins)
“Studies of human proteins are a key element in our basic understanding of human biology and disease. The center’s focus on production technologies for biopharmaceuticals represents an optimal combination of basic research with applications, which we believe will be a key factor for success,” Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chair of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, said in a statement.
The foundation will give most of the funding for the new center, SEK 320 million ($37.7 million). Another SEK 160 million ($18.8 million) will come over eight years from the three universities, Uppsala University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology.
AstraZeneca will chip in SEK 30 million ($3.5 million) to the new center. The center and AstraZeneca’s biologics R&D arm, MedImmune, will contribute knowledge and technology for development of completely new biopharmaceutical production methods.
The center said it will produce a protein library consisting of one-third of human proteins. Most of those proteins have never before been evaluated for their potential to contribute to development of new drugs – molecules large and small.
“It will help us to identify new biomarkers, drug targets and ultimately develop next-generation biological treatments,” added AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot.