Joining Forces in Research on Proteins and Biopharmaceuticals

11 December 2015

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has decided to allocate SEK 320 million for a protein research centre – Wallenberg Centre for Protein Research. Combined with the financial commitments made by the universities involved: Uppsala University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology, along with AstraZeneca, a total of SEK 510 million will be invested in the centre during 2016 – 2023.

The Wallenberg Centre for Protein Research (WCPR) will be a leading international centre of excellence in the field of protein research, its emphasis being on studies of human proteins and production of biopharmaceuticals. The centre intends to collaborate with medium-sized and large pharmaceutical companies in developing new production technologies for biopharmaceuticals.

"It enormously gratifying that we have been able to join forces to bring about this initiative, which paves the way for continuing Swedish research of the very highest international standard. Studies of human proteins are a key element in our basic understanding of human biology and disease. The centre's focus on production technologies for biopharmaceuticals represents an optimal combination of basic research with applications, which we believe will be a key factor for success," says Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chair of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

Biopharmaceuticals have revolutionized medicine, and have made it possible to treat advanced diseases, including various forms of cancer and autoimmune conditions. In future it is expected that many more diseases will be treated using biological molecules, primarily based on antibodies.

The centre will use facilities at AlbaNova University Centre at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, SciLife Lab (Stockholm), Uppsala University, and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.

A total of five research programs will be conducted:

  • Development of cell factories for biopharmaceutical production
  • Bioproduction of all proteins secreted by humans
  • Development of new concepts for antibody therapy
  • System biological studies of proteins of interest for drug development
  • Mapping the human proteome (i.e. all human proteins)

The universities involved have allocated a total of SEK 160 million over eight years. In addition to its own research initiatives, AstraZeneca is contributing SEK 30 million to the centre. Total funding is thus SEK 510 million.

The focus of the collaboration between WCPR and AstraZeneca/MedImmune (MedImmune is AstraZeneca's biopharmaceuticals subsidiary) is to go from genome to product. MediImmune will be contributing knowledge and technology for development of completely new biopharmaceutical production methods. WCPR will be producing a protein library, consisting of one-third of human proteins. Most of those proteins have never before been evaluated for their potential to contribute to development of new drugs – molecules large and small.

"We're tremendously excited to be part of this innovative collaboration as we explore what science can do to advance medical research. It will help us to identify new biomarkers, drug targets and ultimately develop next-generation biological treatments," says Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca Chief Executive.

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has previously allocated SEK 1 billion for production of a Human Protein Atlas, and recently earmarked a further SEK 2 billion for improved Swedish Life Science research. These initiatives provide an excellent basis for investment in the Wallenberg Centre for Protein Research, and development of new biological molecules, antibodies and peptides, as key components in biopharmaceuticals.

Contact:

Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chairman, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation
Tel: +46 (0)8 545 01780
E-mail: [email protected]

 

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is Sweden's largest private research funding body. In 2014 the foundation awarded grants totaling SEK 1.7 billion for Swedish research and to Swedish researchers.

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