AstraZeneca scientists win top chemistry award for osimertinib

AstraZeneca scientists have won the prestigious 2017 Malcolm Campbell Memorial Prize for the discovery of osimertinib – a medicine for patients with locally-advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) carrying the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) T790M mutation.

The Prize, awarded biennially by the Royal Society of Chemistry Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Sector, goes to Ray Finlay, Richard A Ward, Darren Cross, Sam Butterworth and Michael J Waring, in recognition of AstraZeneca’s excellence in medicinal chemistry.

Commenting on the award by the RSC, Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit, said: “I am delighted that the expertise and dedication of the osimertinib research team has been recognised by this important award. By following the science, they designed a unique compound capable of meeting challenging demands for selectivity, efficacy and safety for patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

“The discovery of osimertinib highlights how our medicinal chemists are using the latest technologies combined with target class to design drugs that successfully differentiate in the clinic.”, said David Wilson, Head of Global Chemistry, IMED Biotech Unit.

Richard A Ward, Principal Scientist in Oncology Chemistry, IMED Biotech Unit, explains that it took some complex chemistry to ensure that osimertinib targeted just the specific T790M mutation in lung cancer cells and not the normal EGFR found in healthy cells:

“It has been very rewarding to see our compound go on through the clinical studies and now to receive this award as a member of the original research team is hugely gratifying.”

Ray Finlay, Principal Scientist in Oncology Chemistry, IMED Biotech Unit, points out that the osimertinib team was able to build on a wealth of cancer drug discovery knowledge from AstraZeneca’s medicinal chemistry heritage in the kinase target class:

“It was very exciting when our early results suggested that osimertinib – AZD9291 as it was then called – was the compound we were looking for. I am very proud that the Malcolm Campbell Memorial Prize has been awarded to us on behalf of the whole discovery team in recognition of their work.