AstraZeneca forges $100 million industry-academia deal

AstraZeneca PLC and Karolinska Development AB plan to establish an integrated cardiovascular and metabolic disease center

Jeffrey Bouley
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STOCKHOLM, Sweden—Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science believesthat there are clear indicators that the healthcare sector there is in robust health, aside from the government promising a $320 million support package a year ago. Ironically, this hope seems to derive in large part from AstraZeneca, which recently closed a  neuroscience facility in Södertälje, Sweden, and all because of a new industry-academia deal around cardiovascular and metabolic research .
According to Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science, AstraZeneca (AZ) and Karolinska Institutet (KI) are set to establish an integrated cardiovascular and metabolic research center, withAstra Zeneca contributing as much as $100 million over an initial fiuve years.
For the first time, reportedly, AZ and KI scientists will work together under onedirector.
Also, Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science says SciLifeLab, a national infrastructure to support high-throughput and technically advanced research in the life science area, is "well on target" with its recruitment plans, with more than 1,500 scientist now engaged across the two sites.
Also, the organization says, protein-science based companies in particular, such as Olink,BioLamina and Atlas Antibodies continue to demonstrate impressivegrowth, "whilst there has been an increase in the number of start-ups,many by former Astra Zeneca employees following the major restructuringin early 2012."
But, getting back to the AZ/KI deal, Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science notes that the Karolinska Institutet/AstraZeneca Integrated Cardio MetabolicCentre" (KI/AZ ICMC) is AstraZeneca's largest-ever collaboration with aSwedish academic institution.
AndersHamsten, president of Karolinska Institutet said: "AstraZeneca, withtheir strong focus on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, is anattractive partner for Karolinska Institutet. We believe that this newcollaboration model, with Research Groups located under one roof andworking in a fully integrated manner will be prove a success for bothindustry and academia."
The new organization's aim is to identify and validate novel targets withincardio-metabolic diseases and will focus mainly on three strategicresearch themes: cardiac regeneration, islet health (diabetes) and diabetic nephropathy "across modalities like small molecules andbiologics."
Recruitment of a director is already reportedly underway and as many as six research groups will be established at KI/AZ ICMC. In total ,20 to 30scientists from AstraZeneca and Karolinska Institutet will be full-timeemployees at the center.
Marcus Schindler, VP, Head of CVMD iMed, AstraZeneca said: "One of thebiggest challenges of biomedicine is to translate academic research intodrug projects that deliver true benefits for patients and society. Wehave worked side by side with academic institutions in the past, butthis is the first time that AstraZeneca will fully integrate ourresearch teams with an academic institution. We believe that this willspeed up the progression from ground-breaking research into the deliveryof new medicines and advance our scientific leadership incardiovascular and metabolic research."
The CEO of Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science, Ola Bjorkman welcomes theannouncement, saying, "I believe that this demonstrates a promising future forthe life science sector in Stockholm-Uppsala at all levels. Both the newAZ/KI collaboration and SciLifeLab are addressing the key issue oftranslational medicine by contributing a cutting edge researchinfrastructure. Recruitment of life science talent from abroad remainsstrong and with SciLifeLab now acting as a national resource, morecollaboration with other Swedish sites are expected. The research isbeing efficiently translated into products and services, throughcompanies such as Olink, Atlas Antibodies and BioLamina, with a newgeneration of start-ups, many by former AZ employees, emerging. Finally,there is a growing belief among the key actors here thatthese parallelinvestments in drug discovery, clinical research and the use of patientregisters opens new avenues for developing more personalized and outcomeorientated healthcare systems."

Jeffrey Bouley

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