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Pharmaceuticals: AstraZeneca and Roche to share medicinal chemistry data

by Lisa M. Jarvis
June 27, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 26

In an effort to improve early-stage drug research, AstraZeneca and Roche have agreed to share data from their medicinal chemistry efforts. The goal is to ease the pain of optimizing compounds, a process that can involve many cycles of drug design, synthesis, and testing before scientists finally have a molecule suitable for human studies.

Because small changes to a molecule can have a big impact on properties such as solubility and stability, the idea is to avoid repeating others’ mistakes and exploit successes. MedChemica, a computational chemistry services firm formed last year by three former AstraZeneca employees, will process data provided by the companies. The setup allows knowledge to be shared while protecting proprietary information, like the exact structure of a molecule.

The partners want to use “the hard-won knowledge of the past to pinpoint the right changes the first time,” says MedChemica Managing Director Al Dossetter.

For AstraZeneca, the pact illustrates a willingness to share what had previously been closely held information in the interest of improving R&D. Last month, the big pharma firm unveiled a deal under which it will provide the nonprofit Cancer Research UK with information about a DNA damage repair protein and related compounds. And in what it describes as a first, AstraZeneca is also opening up its screening facility to Cancer Research UK scientists to test a drug target.

The deals with Roche and Cancer Research UK are bold, says Bernard Munos, founder of the InnoThink Center for Research in Biomedical Innovation. “Cross-pollination and bold science are major drivers of innovation,” Munos says. “With these collaborations, AstraZeneca does both.”


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