GAITHERSBURG, Md.—MedImmune, the East Coast U.S-based global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), recently announced a research collaboration that will focus on respiratory, inflammatory and autoimmunity (RIA) indications, working at both basic research and translational sciences. The collaboration builds on the existing partnership between the two organizations formed in 2014 and leverages MedImmune’s local presence in Mountain View, Calif., not far from San Francisco.
“Our partnership with the University of California, San Francisco, brings together the complementary strengths and combined scientific expertise of UCSF and MedImmune, and introduces new scientists—and possibly new ways of thinking—into each other’s respective organizations,” says Dr. Bing Yao, senior vice president and head of MedImmune’s Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity Innovative Medicines Unit.
“Specifically, our Mountain View site has strong in-house capabilities in translational pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modeling, pharmacometrics and bioanalytics supporting biomarker development, helping to further advance this important area of research around RIA-associated diseases,” Yao adds. “One of the research projects within this collaboration will be focused on pharmacometrics, and the research and computer modeling for it will take place at both the Mountain View and UCSF locations, which are within sixty miles of each other.”
Scientists from both organizations will partner to explore the disease biology and the core underlying mechanisms that drive areas of unmet medical need in RIA, such as the microbiome and regenerative medicine. The work will include extensive profiling of patient samples to expand understanding of disease progression, to identify novel biomarkers and to create a quantitative framework to understand the effect of these biomarkers on clinical trial outcomes.
“This partnership brings together the complementary strengths of UCSF and MedImmune and will foster closer engagement between both groups,” according to Dr. June Lee, director of early translational research and of the Catalyst Program at UCSF, who is overseeing the partnership. “Ultimately, these collaborations will accelerate research to better understand diseases with limited treatment options, and will hopefully have significant impact.”
This partnership will include seven initial research projects over the next three years, with the potential for more projects to be included in the future. These projects will focus on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, scleroderma, sarcoidosis, severe asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.
“We look forward to extending our existing partnership with world-renowned scientists at UCSF, an institution committed to advancing translational research,” says Yao. “Combined with MedImmune’s innovative, cutting-edge science in respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity as well as translational medicine, we are optimistic our collective findings will benefit the patients who are most in need.”
There are significant gaps in the understanding of how these diseases progress and whether distinct patient subtypes are more amenable to current or experimental therapies. Moreover, many of these diseases are increasing in incidence, resulting in an even greater impact on health. This extensive research program will lay the groundwork for ongoing drug discovery and development aimed at identifying new medicines for the millions of patients living with these conditions who currently lack sufficient treatment options. Developing techniques to quantify the impact of predictive biomarkers on clinical outcomes data will help further advance the ultimate aim of precision medicine in these disease areas.
Yao explains: “For all of the research projects, we will be using all modalities of translational research, namely clinical samples and established in-vitro models and/or in-vivo models. Where applicable, the research projects will use well-characterized patient samples from UCSF biobanks and well-annotated clinical patient samples from MedImmune.
“Developing techniques to quantify the impact of predictive biomarkers on clinical outcomes data will help further advance the ultimate aim of precision medicine.”
UCSF is home to top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, as well as a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic biomedical, translational and population sciences—and what it touts as a “preeminent biomedical research enterprise.” The university also includes UCSF Health, which is composed of two top-tier hospitals—UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco—as well as other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.
MedImmune is the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of small-molecule and biologic prescription medicines. MedImmune is pioneering innovative research and exploring novel pathways across key therapeutic areas, including respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity; cardiovascular and metabolic disease; oncology; neuroscience; and infection and vaccines. The MedImmune headquarters is located in Gaithersburg, Md., one of AstraZeneca’s three global R&D centers, with additional sites in Mountain View and Cambridge, U.K.