AstraZeneca & UCL Collaborate On Regenerative Medicine Approach To Treat Diabetes-Related Vision Impairment

Monday, 13 September 2010

AstraZeneca and UCL (University College London) today announced that they have entered into a collaboration to develop regenerative medicines for diabetic retinopathy (DR).

DR is now the most common cause of vision impairment among those of working age in Western society. The majority of patients with type 1 diabetes will develop retinopathy and about 20-30% will become blind. Moreover, a large number of patients with type 2 diabetes will develop retinopathy as their underlying disease progresses. With the global epidemic of type 2 diabetes, this predicament is set to worsen as over 438 million people are projected to suffer from diabetes and its complications by 2030.

Under the terms of the three-year agreement, AstraZeneca and scientists at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology will collaborate to identify new therapeutic tools that can modulate the regenerative capacity of stem cells. Dr Marcus Fruttiger, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, is leading the project and explains that, "These tools could be used either to manufacture transplantable material or to directly stimulate new cell growth in the eye to help restore or improve the vision of those with DR."

“AstraZeneca believes that regenerative medicine offers new opportunities to develop innovative, more effective and safer therapies to benefit patient health. Over the next few years, stem cell technology is likely to contribute to a measurable improvement in our ability to discover and develop candidate drugs, and to target those drugs to the right patient population through a better understanding of the disease process. We are delighted to be combining our drug hunting expertise with the pioneering research ongoing at UCL,” said Alan Lamont, Director of Sciences and Technology Alliances at AstraZeneca .

Professor Pete Coffey, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, adds: “This is a great collaborative opportunity and we’re delighted to be working with AstraZeneca to explore the potential of harnessing the regenerative capacity of stem cells to develop a cellular therapy for diabetic retinopathy, which is a major cause of visual impairment and blindness worldwide. AstraZeneca has a proven track record in developing medicines and their involvement in this type of research is very exciting.”

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business with a primary focus on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines. As a leader in gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation, oncology and infectious disease medicines, AstraZeneca generated global revenues of US $32.8 billion in 2009. For more information please visit: www.astrazeneca.com

About UCL

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. UCL is the fourth-ranked university in the 2009 THES-QS World University Rankings. UCL alumni include Marie Stopes, Jonathan Dimbleby, Lord Woolf, Alexander Graham Bell, and members of the band Coldplay. UCL currently has over 12,000 undergraduate and 8,000 postgraduate students. Its annual income is over £600 million. www.ucl.ac.uk

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