AstraZeneca’s recently established Neuroscience Innovative Medicines Unit (iMed) has expanded its R&D capabilities through the acquisition of a portfolio of preclinical and clinical small molecule candidates from Link Medicine, and the separate establishment of an Alzheimer disease research consortium with four academic research laboratories.

The neurodegenerative diseases candidates acquired from Link Medicine are designed to target famesyltransferase, and so modulate autophagy, a process that could have applications against Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases, which are characterized by the build up of neurotoxic aggregates of incorrectly folded proteins. Link is focused on the development of disease-modifying drugs that prevent or reduce protein aggregates involved in specific neurodegenerative diseases. Under terms of the deal AstraZeneca takes over all R&D for the autophagy program, and will pay Link an up-front fee and future milestones.

AstraZeneca’s new Alzheimer disease research consortium, dubbed the A5 alliance, will focus on investigating the relationship between apolipoprotein E and Alzheimer disease, and ultimately aims to identify and validate drug targets. Partners in the initiative include experts at Weill Cornell’s Helen and Robert Appel Alzheimer’s Disease Research Institute, Washington University in St. Louis, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and the University of British Columbia. AstraZeneca will fund the academic research, and the alliance members will contribute program management and scientific expertise through work at their own laboratories.

“The formation of the A5 alliance represents a unique academic-industry partnership whereby these Alzheimer disease experts will link their labs together and work closely with a pharmaceutical company to unlock the science behind ApoE in order to discover new disease-modifying drug targets,” comments Steve Paul, M.D. who is principal academic collaborator on the initiative, director of the Helen and Robert Appel Alzheimer Disease Research Institute, and professor of neuroscience, psychiatry and pharmacology at Weill Cornell. “We are convinced that ApolE represents a major piece of the Alzheimer disease puzzle and that each member of the A5 alliance brings a critical piece of that puzzle to the table.”

AstraZeneca established its virtual Neuroscience Innovative Medicines Unit earlier this year, under the leadership of Mike Pool, M.D., who was most recently chief medical officer at Link Medicine. The Unit’s team, based in Boston and Cambridge (U.K.), will manage drug discovery and development collaborations with a network of academic and industry partners.

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