AstraZeneca and three U.K. charities said today they will partner to develop new epigenetic drug treatments for respiratory diseases, through a collaboration whose value was not disclosed.

MRC Technology, Asthma UK, and the British Lung Foundation will join the pharma giant in investigating the link between epigenetics and respiratory disease. Epigenetics—an area in which research until now has mostly focused on cancer—offers a potential new avenue for new treatments, the partners reason.

The partners have created a web page calling for researchers interested in studying potential respiratory epigenetic targets through the collaboration. An October 31 deadline has been set: “We’re looking for epigenetics targets or mechanisms associated with either: respiratory disease including COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], asthma and exacerbated asthma through infections, or immunomodulation and inflammation, e.g., those determining T-cell or macrophage phenotypes.”

The collaboration is designed to combine drug discovery and clinical development, funding, and access to research networks and patient groups. The partners said their goal is enabling early-stage studies that can be translated into new respiratory disease therapies.

“The funding and support from Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation will enable us to identify innovative science to progress in our own laboratories, while AstraZeneca’s expertise is invaluable to get therapies into the clinic,” Justin Bryans, Ph.D., director, drug discovery, at MRC Technology, said in a statement.

MRC Technology is an independent medical research charity offering intellectual property management as well as drug and diagnostics R&D services for academic institutions, biopharmas, and other charities.

Through the collaboration, MRC Technology and AstraZeneca are contributing proprietary compounds for screening.

“With novel therapeutic strategies directed against epigenetic changes, this collaboration represents an important step forward in AstraZeneca's commitment to the fundamental research needed to find transformative medicines for the hundreds of millions of patients afflicted by these conditions,” added Maarten Kraan, head of AstraZeneca’s Respiratory and Inflammation Innovative Medicines Unit.

Respiratory diseases, combined with inflammation and autoimmunity diseases, constitute one of AstraZeneca’s three therapeutic areas. The other two are oncology and cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

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