MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, and Cancer Research UK today said they have opened a new laboratory focused on the discovery and development of new biologic cancer treatments and diagnostics.

The CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory in Cambridge, UK, on Granta Park, was opened this week by UK Life Sciences Minister George Freeman, MP. The new lab reflects an alliance involving MedImmune, Cancer Research UK, and its commercialization and development subsidiary Cancer Research Technology.

Cancer Research UK has provided equipment and operational funding for the lab, and will contribute a portfolio of novel drug targets through its network of principal investigators, while MedImmune will manage the drug discovery process for accepted projects, the partners said.

Researchers from Cancer Research UK and MedImmune will collaborate, with the goal of discovering and developing new biologics to treat and diagnose cancer. The collaboration is intended to combine Cancer Research UK’s cancer biology expertise with MedImmune’s protein-engineering expertise and human antibody phage display libraries.

MedImmune’s phage display technology allows the expression of antibody fragments that retain their ability to interact normally with other molecules. The company says its controlled selection processes of large libraries can identify hundreds of different potential drug candidates to each target protein, with techniques developed to isolate antibodies exhibiting certain traits, such as a desired specific biological function, high potency or cross-reactivity.

“We are driven to engineer the best antibodies and identify which components of cancer make the best targets for treatment. There’s a lot of ground to cover and we’re delighted to be working in partnership to advance this exciting field,” Maria Groves, Ph.D., head of the CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory and associate director at MedImmune, said in a statement.

“Increasing investment in biotherapeutic treatment forms a key part of Cancer Research UK’s research strategy,” added Nigel Blackburn Ph.D., director of drug development at Cancer Research UK. “We’re delighted to embark on this exciting new initiative, which will give leading Cancer Research UK scientists access to the latest antibody-engineering technologies and expertise.”