Open Innovation Boost to Drug Development

Published Dec-05-16

Using open innovation to create new therapies for patients.

AstraZeneca, United Kingdom

The Story:

Open Innovation Boost to Drug Development AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical company that since March 2014 has been ramping up its medical research efforts. That was when it launched a massive open innovation project, inspired by the premise that brilliant science and collaboration go hand in hand.

While the multinational has its own top team of scientists working on next generation medicines, it realizes it cannot go it alone, and that the best way forward for new treatments for cancer, diabetes and other illnesses is to combine its research with those of others in industry and academia.

Open Innovation Engagement

Since its launch, the AstraZeneca open innovation program has received more than 400 proposals from researchers in 28 countries across four continents. And in less than three years, 150 open innovation partnerships have been formed, predominantly with academic scientists but also with science-focused companies.

But that's not all as over 100 pre-clinical and 22 clinical studies are ongoing or being planned. The research covers numerous fields, including autism, cancer bone pain, Alzheimer's disease and psychosis with results being published in medical and scientific journals.

Unique Resource

At the heart of the open innovation endeavor is a unique resource, a High Throughput Screening (HTS) compound library. With this, open innovation partners can enjoy unrestricted access to more than 250,000 discontinued or live clinical compounds for screening.

"The influx of external scientific creativity adds new, broader thinking to help boost our programs, our energy and our excitement," said Craig Wegner. Exec Dir, Boston Head, Emerging Innovations, Scientific Partnering & Alliances at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP.

“In return, our collaborators benefit from our drug discovery expertise and technology which is far beyond what is normally available to them."

One area that could benefit from this open innovation approach is treatment for chronic cough, for which there have been no new drugs for more than half a century. Professor Jacky Smith at Manchester University is looking at one AstraZeneca compound in particular- AZD3355 - as a possible new treatment.

It had been previously used by the pharmaceutical giant in research on heartburn, but this was discontinued. There is a link between the cause of heartburn and chronic cough and so Professor Smith's research could provide promising therapeutic options.

"Getting access to this compound from AstraZeneca means an awful lot because this is a huge unmet clinical need," said Professor Smith. "Even if the drug doesn't turn out to be sufficiently effective in these patients we will still have learned something and I am confident that will help us to take the field forward and help us develop other treatments in the future."

The New Normal

Advocates of open innovation in the pharmaceutical industry view collaboration as one of the most effective ways to conduct medicines research going forward. And AstraZeneca hopes that their pioneering approach will soon become the new normal in the development of therapeutics.

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