AstraZeneca taps Sarah Cannon for cancer R&D

AstraZeneca ($AZN) has linked up with CRO Sarah Cannon Research Institute to advance its personalized medicine oncology program, partnering up to profile genes and develop responsive therapies.

Under the deal, Sarah Cannon will help AZ explore biomarkers for certain cancers and identify patients for clinical trials. The CRO will also provide its clinical development expertise and oversee early-phase trial work for multiple oncology compounds, the company said.

"Through our research, we know how vital and impactful individualized treatment options are for patients battling this complex disease," Sarah Cannon CEO Dee Anna Smith said in a statement. "By partnering with AstraZeneca, we are expanding opportunities to accelerate drug development and deliver more targeted therapies to patients who urgently need them."

The deal builds off an oncology agreement between the two back in 2010, targeted to develop new cancer treatments, and the new partnership expands the scope of the relationship to include molecular profiling and tissue classification for patient recruitment, Sarah Cannon said.

AZ has been more than willing to partner as it looks to jump-start its lagging pipeline, teaming up with competitors like Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Amgen ($AMGN) and inking deals with CROs around the world, including WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) and Charles River Labs ($CRL).

The drugmaker is pulling out all the stops to advance compounds without breaking its R&D budget, and, so far, that means outsourcing. AZ's neuroscience unit is almost entirely composed of contract work, teaming a small group of internal scientists with CROs to handle studies, eClinical companies to manage data and CMOs to produce treatments.

- read the announcement