A neuroscience vision: right partner, right time, right place


Iain Chessell, Ph.D

We live in a world in which partnerships and collaborations drive medical progress—these alliances are the stuff of which good science and good medicine are created, built upon and sustained. And, when we have the right partners, the possibilities are infinite.

This is why I and all of my colleagues here are so excited about our most recent collaboration with the University of Cambridge, a move that supports our long-term vision and could have a significant impact for patients—particularly those with neurodegenerative diseases.

Our partnership with the University of Cambridge will focus on advancing novel research in neuroscience, an area with a significant unmet medical need, and we’ll work together to address gaps in drug discovery, translational biomarkers and personalised healthcare approaches for neurodegenerative diseases that include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Diseases that affect millions
We’ve seen the impact of neurodegenerative diseases. They affect millions of people worldwide, leaving a trail of devastation, frustration and even fear. Some available treatments may help with symptoms, but there are no cures or ways to slow disease progression. On its own, Alzheimer’s or related dementia affects about 36 million people worldwide; Parkinson’s between 7 and 10 million; and MS between 1.1 and 2.5 million.

Included among the goals of our alliance with the University of Cambridge is the intent to create an increased understanding of these specific disease mechanisms, but also to enable work in basic neuroscience that addresses unmet therapeutic needs in a variety of serious neurodegenerative diseases.

All of this is part of an overall approach for our Neuroscience iMED division, which is particularly focused on neurology, analgesia and psychiatry. Within neurology, our scientists have been looking at targets and mechanisms common to different disease states, and much work is being done for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. We’re also leveraging large molecule opportunities and looking at differentiated efficacy for analgesia drug development, an area that we recently highlighted in this video production. And, within psychiatry, we’re giving a good amount of attention to exploiting emerging genetics and biology, especially for disorders of the brain such as Tourette’s and Rett syndrome.

Commitment to research infrastructure
Partnerships like the one we now have with the University of Cambridge are important to these efforts. They enable us to do a number of things that include broadening our disease interests and favouring pathways that can benefit multiple, related populations; focusing on the most relevant patient population to test concepts and targets; bringing innovative trial design to human translational medicine and early development; and being agnostic with respect to small or large molecule approaches.

What’s also noteworthy about this particular alliance is that it reinforces our commitment to creating a research infrastructure in Cambridge, UK, which follows AstraZeneca’s decision to locate one of its three global R&D centres and its global headquarters in the city that has been home to MedImmune’s biologics research laboratories for 25 years.

Deepening our roots here in the Cambridge life science ecosystem offers compelling advantages, and we’re looking forward to working with these world-class colleagues who can help us to move new projects quickly and flexibly from discovery through early development.