AstraZeneca and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology (MPI) said today they will study new modalities chemistry by establishing a satellite unit in cardiovascular and metabolic disease (CVMD) linked to AstraZeneca’s CVMD Innovative Medicines unit (iMed) in Mölndal, Sweden. The value of the collaboration was not disclosed.

The new satellite unit will focus on new chemistry and chemical biology in areas of new modality chemistry, such as stabilized peptides, macrocycles and conjugation chemistry. AstraZeneca said its scientists will work with researchers from MPI’s Department of Chemical Biology, led by Professor Herbert Waldmann, Ph.D.

“Based on our excellent ongoing collaboration with Professor Waldmann’s group and the interdisciplinary Chemical Genomics Centre, we are confident that this innovative new partnership will result in exciting scientific findings, addressing chemical challenges primarily in the field of new modalities,” Marcus Schindler, vp and head of CVMD iMed for AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

AstraZeneca’s new collaboration with MPI is designed to support identification of new targets in the company’s three areas of research focus in CVMD: cardiac regeneration, islet health (diabetes) and diabetic nephropathy. The company and the institute hope to develop treatments addressing the underlying biology required to stop, reverse or cure diseases with high unmet medical need.

The new collaboration is not the first between AstraZeneca and Max Planck researchers. In January 2013, the company and the Lead Discovery Center of the institute’s technology transfer organization Max Planck Innovation, launched a two-year alliance focused on discovering new medicines to treat human diseases with high unmet medical need. AstraZeneca agreed to add 250,000 high-quality compounds to LDC’s internal screening collection, toward research projects in oncology, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and infection research.

AstraZeneca said the partnership with MPI will be similar to a collaboration with Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet that resulted in creation of the Integrated Translational Research Centre (ICMC) for cardiovascular and metabolic disease and regenerative medicine, located at Karolinska’s site in Stockholm. ICMC conducts preclinical and clinical studies aimed at advancing understanding of cardiovascular and metabolic disease pathophysiology, as well as assessing new drug targets for AstraZeneca’s iMed and MedImmune biotechnology units.

Cardiovascular and metabolic diseases represent one of AstraZeneca’s three core therapeutic areas; the others are oncology; and respiratory, inflammation & autoimmunity diseases. AstraZeneca expanded iMed into oncology in March, launching a partnership with the government-funded Korea Health Industry Development Institute in which the company agreed to support 12 early-stage translational research projects by Korean cancer investigators.

iMed was launched in 2012 with a focus on neuroscience. AstraZeneca has expanded iMed, with its virtual structure and collaborative focus, even as it has cut in-house R&D jobs – 2,200 in 2012, with another 1,600 to be eliminated through 2016 – and has begun consolidating research sites into three global hubs. 

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