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AstraZeneca Builds Up Swedish R&D Potential

By Eugene Gerden 

April 23, 2013 | Astra Zeneca continues to build up its R&D potential. Following the recent management reshuffle in the R&D division, which resulted in the change of its head and the establishment of three innovative research centers in the UK, the U.S. and Sweden, the company announced its plans to strengthen its relationship with the Stockholm-based Karolinska Institute (KI), one of Europe's largest and most prestigious medical universities.

Under the terms of the agreement, a new Joint Translational Research Center for the treatment of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and regenerative medicine will be established at the Karolinska Institute

In addition to its main activities, which will include conducting pre-clinical and clinical trials of new drugs for the treatment of heart disease and diseases associated with metabolic disorders, the new center will focus on obtaining new radioligands, the improvement of positron emission tomography, as well as modern visualization technologies that allow researchers to conduct  non-invasive studies of the human brain.

According to Anders Ekblom, CEO of AstraZeneca in Sweden and head of its Science and Technology Integration Office, this new center will enable AstraZeneca and KI to produce biomarkers for major chronic diseases more quickly and will serve as a reserach base for neuroscience and other fields of pathology.

In addition to the establishment of the Translational Research Center, AstraZeneca and Karolinska Institute plan to join efforts to develop new visualization tools “that can help transition molecules through AstraZeneca’s early research and development pipeline.”

Finally, this year AstraZeneca and the Karolinska Institute plan to increase investments in the implementation of joint research projects, as part of the Science for Life Laboratories (SciLifeLab) venture, a scientific project implemented by Swedish universities including the Karolinska Institute with the support of the Swedish government. SciLifeLab focuses on research activities in the field of genomics, proteomics, and biovisualization. 

Patent Plan 

Increasing scientific and R&D activities in Sweden is part of AstraZeneca’s ongoing global strategy, aimed at a more actively developing of new drugs, an acute need for the company. Two of the company’s best-selling drugs—Nexium and Crestor—will lose its patent protection in 2014 and 2016.

AstraZeneca's small molecule and biologics R&D activities will be concentrated in three strategic centres: Cambridge, U.K., Gaithersburg, U.S. and Mölndal, Sweden. The company’s Boston site will focus primarily on small molecules. Last month, the company signed an agreement with Moderna Therapeutics, a Cambridge biotechnology company, to discover, develop and commercialize messenger RNA therapeutics for the treatment of serious cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases as well as cancer.

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