AstraZeneca and Columbia University Medical Center Sign Strategic Research Collaboration in Neurosciences; Focus on New Approach

AstraZeneca and Columbia University Medical Center Sign Strategic Research Collaboration in Neurosciences; Focus on New Approach

 WILMINGTON, Del. and NEW YORK, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) and Columbia University Medical Center today announced a new research collaboration to examine how neurogenesis -- the creation of new neuronal cells - in adults might offer novel approaches to treating depression and anxiety.

For more than a century, the prevailing scientific rationale was that neurogenesis only occurs in the developing brain. However, recent research shows that physical activity, enriched environmental conditions and antidepressant therapy can stimulate neurogenesis in the adult brain. Identifying novel antidepressant targets and potential differentiation between existing and future generations of antidepressants will be key aims for the collaboration.

Depression and anxiety disorders remain under-diagnosed and under-treated. One study in the US(1) concluded that approximately 16 percent of the population suffers from major depression on at least one occasion in their lives.

Rene Hen, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, said, "Current anti-depression therapies were developed before recent advances in the scientific understanding of adult neurogenesis. Through our basic science investigations and our collaboration with AstraZeneca, we will work to harness the potential of adult-born neurons to stimulate hippocampal function and thereby possibly treat specific mood and cognitive disorders faster and with less side effects."

Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., chairman of Columbia's Department of Psychiatry, added, "This collaboration is one example of a partnership aimed at new approaches to better treatment options in psychiatry. Medication therapy is part of a comprehensive treatment plan for those with mental illness and truly innovative, science-based, targeted therapies are desperately needed for those who are still today one of our most vulnerable patient populations."

Frank Yocca, Ph.D., Vice President for CNS Discovery Research at AstraZeneca in Wilmington, said: "Building on the huge advances that the neuroscience research community gained from the Decade of the Brain(2), AstraZeneca is delighted to be working with Dr. Rene Hen and his neuroscience colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center, who are at the forefront of research in neurogenesis. Working collaboratively, we aim to expand our knowledge in this area, and to bring more effective, safer and faster-working treatments to patients with depression and anxiety as quickly as possible."

Notes to editors

This new alliance with Columbia University Medical Center is one of several new alliances by AstraZeneca with leading academic and research institutions to address unmet medical needs through cutting-edge research across several disease areas, including Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain and psychiatric illnesses. These proposed new agreements complement existing AstraZeneca alliances in neuroscience and other key therapeutic areas with world-class institutions, like Columbia.

In June 2008, AstraZeneca & Columbia University Medical Center announced a strategic research collaboration in the area of metabolic disease.(3)

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a major international healthcare business engaged in the research, development, manufacturing and marketing of meaningful prescription medicines and supplier for healthcare services. AstraZeneca is one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies with healthcare sales of $29.55 billion and is a leader in gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory, oncology and infectious disease medicines. In the United States, AstraZeneca is a $13.35 billion dollar healthcare business with 12,200 employees committed to improving people's lives. AstraZeneca is listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (Global) as well as the FTSE4Good Index.

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About Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future health care leaders at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. CUMC ( is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and state and one of the largest in the United States. Columbia University's technology transfer organization, Science and Technology Ventures, serves as a bridge between Columbia's researchers and the business community. STV's core objective is to facilitate the transfer of inventions from academic research to outside organizations for the benefit of society on a local, national and global basis. For more information on STV, visit

(1) Ronald C. Kessler, PhD; Patricia Berglund, MBA; Olga Demler, MA, MS; Robert Jin, MA; Kathleen R. Merikangas, PhD; Ellen E. Walters, MS, Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62:593-602


(3) us/newsroom/all/3095607?itemId=3095607 (Due to length of URL, copy and paste into browser)