AstraZeneca and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Working Together to Find New Therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease

Thursday, 18 March 2010

AstraZeneca and The University of Pennsylvania today announced a new collaborative research agreement that initially will focus on generating new Alzheimer’s disease (AD) drug candidates for the clinical development pipeline.

The agreement allows the parties to work closely together in drug discovery and development, and contains potential royalties and milestone payments linked to successful clinical development and eventual world-wide marketing of tau targeted therapies for Alzheimer's disease. AstraZeneca has exclusive access to compound IP and study data for any commercial purposes.

Currently there are an estimated 15-20 million people worldwide with AD. With the aging population worldwide, this figure is set to increase to more than 50 million people by 2050. AD destroys brain cells, causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior that are severe enough to affect work, hobbies or social life. With time, AD gets worse and is fatal. Because today there is no cure, AD represents a human tragedy for patients and their loved ones and also places substantial financial burden on the patients’ families and communities.

In AD, the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are thought to contribute to the destruction of nerve cells in the brain, leading to subsequent symptoms of the disease. In this collaboration, researchers will focus on the protein tau, which is the key component of tangles in AD.

Penn Medicine’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) will provide rapid access to unique state-of–the-art drug compound screening assays and knowledge of the biology of tau – first characterized for its role in dementias by Penn Medicine’s Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, MBA, Director of CNDR, and John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, Director of Institute on Aging. AstraZeneca scientists will supply basic research with access to the technologies and skills required to discover and develop new drug molecules.

“Finding new therapies that affect tau-mediated neurodegeneration in AD is one key to AstraZeneca’s strategy for fighting this disease. We are pleased to be part of such an innovative collaboration, marrying the world-leading disease understanding of CNDR to the drug discovery experience of AstraZeneca”, commented Johan Lund, Vice President of Discovery Research Area CNS & Pain Control at AstraZeneca in Södertälje, Sweden.

“We are excited about the collaborative drug discovery relationship that CNDR has formed with AstraZeneca, as it builds on the exceptional translational research strengths of the Penn CNDR team in elucidating mechanisms of tau-mediated neurodegeneration in AD,” said Dr. Lee, who along with Dr. Trojanowski and Kurt Brunden, PhD, Director of CNDR Drug Discovery, will lead the CNDR component of this new alliance at Penn. “This collaborative research agreement strongly complements both entities’ AD drug discovery programs and expands opportunities for developing disease-modifying AD therapies.”

“This agreement offers the hope of accelerating the pace of drug discovery, particularly important given the global burden of AD,” added Michael Cleare, PhD, Associate Vice-Provost for Research & Executive Director of the Center for Technology Transfer at Penn. “We believe that joint development relationships of this type will become an increasingly important part of our mission, to make research available for the benefit and betterment of society.”

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

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