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Vanderbilt scores another neuroscience drug pact as AstraZeneca signs on

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Vanderbilt University's neuroscience drug discovery team has scored another high-profile research collaboration with a leading drug developer. A few months ago Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) signed on to work with investigators at the university's research unit on new drugs that target Parkinson's. Now AstraZeneca--hard at work to fill a thin pipeline--is also turning to expert partners at Vanderbilt, licensing in new and prospective therapies for psychosis and major brain diseases like Alzheimer's and schizophrenia.

AstraZeneca ($AZN) is gaining rights for drugs that target the M4 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor. Vanderbilt bags an unspecified upfront payment, two years' worth of research support and a set of milestones and royalties on any successful development program. These kinds of early-stage research partnerships between pharma giants and academic groups have become a common feature in the pharma world.

"We believe the new model for furthering neuroscience drug discovery created by AstraZeneca fits perfectly with the mission of the (Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery), making this an ideal partnership for advancing treatment of these devastating disorders," said P. Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D., VCNDD director and Lee E. Limbird Professor in pharmacology. "Ultimately it takes the pharmaceutical industry to fully develop and market a drug. Anything we can do to increase the probability of success and build a clear rationale for AstraZeneca to invest in clinical trials for this area of unmet medical need will have tremendous impact on patients and the economy." 

Vanderbilt is working with BMS on experimental Parkinson's treatments that focus on the mGluR4 glutamate receptor, a positive allosteric modulator, or PAM. The Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery is already backed by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

- here's the press release

Special Report: 20 Major Pharma-Academic Alliances in 2012

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