AstraZeneca bets on the future of the 'secretome,' joining a $100M research effort

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

AstraZeneca ($AZN), on the hunt for new drug targets, is teaming up with a Swedish research outfit to explore the potential of an emerging class of proteins, joining a $100 million initiative.

Joining forces with the newly founded Wallenberg Centre for Protein Research, AstraZeneca and its MedImmune subsidiary are digging into the therapeutic potential of the so-called secretome, a new addition to science's seemingly infinite -omes that focuses on proteins secreted by cells.

Such proteins play important roles a wealth of biological processes, AstraZeneca said, including cardiac tissue regeneration, glucose balance and cancer growth. The secretome covers roughly one-third of all bodily proteins, according to the company, and scientists are only beginning to map out its wide-ranging effects on human health.

Through the collaboration with Wallenberg, AstraZeneca is planning to screen its own compound library against secretome proteins to see if it can get some meaningful hits that could become drug development projects. In addition, the company plans to investigate reverse-engineering the protein secretion process in an effort to transform cells into ersatz drug factories that can produce therapeutic proteins to treat disease.

The Wallenberg Centre is getting off the ground with a $38 million allocation from its eponymous founders, securing funding commitments from its partner universities that will total about $60 million through 2023. AstraZeneca is kicking in $3.5 million to the effort over three years.

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

Joining AstraZeneca in the effort are Uppsala University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology, and the research center's leadership hopes to strike more collaborations with biopharma as it fleshes out its program.

- read AstraZeneca's statement
- here's the Wallenberg announcement