Researchers nab $11M to fund second look at AstraZeneca's stockpile of failed drugs

If at first you don't succeed with drug research, try again with an academic collaborator. The U.K.'s Medical Research Council has stepped in with $11 million to fund a slate of new academic research projects that will explore new uses for 15 of AstraZeneca's shelved therapeutics.

The pharma giant basked in the media limelight late last year when it offered up drugs relegated to the company's back burner--which it has a plentiful supply of. For AstraZeneca ($AZN), the move reflected the industry's growing willingness to open up its books and work more closely with academic researchers in the hunt for new therapies. And GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) further accelerated the "open R&D ecosystem" movement recently with its vow to make all of its data available to qualified investigators.

With the MRC footing the bill, scientists can now probe one failed cancer drug's use in fighting Alzheimer's, while an experimental heartburn drug gets a second look as a therapy for chronic cough, reports Bloomberg, offering examples of how the program will work. AstraZeneca's effort to redevelop failed drugs is coordinated by a team working under Clive Morris. And AZ joined Pfizer ($PFE) and Eli Lilly ($LLY) in a related U.S. effort to repurpose drugs using NIH funding.

"Thanks to the generosity of AstraZeneca, U.K. scientists will be able to carry out medical research that otherwise may never have been possible," says Professor Patrick Johnston, chair of the MRC's Translational Research Group. "Not only will this bring benefits for patients in the form of more effective medicines and a better understanding of disease, but it has also allowed academic researchers to forge new partnerships with industry, which will give rise to future collaboration across the life sciences sector." 

AstraZeneca notes that it will hold on to its existing IP on the drugs, while the academic institutions involved in the new work gain the rights to "any new research findings."

- here's the press release
- read the story from Bloomberg

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