U-M Medical School and MedImmune Join Forces To Accelerate Search for New Therapies

Strategic collaboration agreement will bring scientists together to work toward new biologic options for cancer and other diseases

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Nov. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leaders from the University of Michigan Medical School and MedImmune, the global biologics arm of AstraZeneca, have signed a new agreement to work together on a broad range of projects.

The three-year strategic collaboration will bring scientists from one of the nation's top medical research institutions together with scientists from one of the world's leading developers of biologic therapies.

UMMS and MedImmune scientists will cooperate on studies that aim to translate scientific discoveries from the laboratory into new candidates for treating cancer, heart disease, digestive disease, lung disease and diseases caused by inflammation.

This type of translational and pre-clinical research is designed to identify and confirm the specific molecules and genes involved in causing disease, and potential molecules and cell-based therapies to treat or prevent them.

"We are thrilled to partner with MedImmune in a collaborative and creative way to bring new innovations to market," says Steven Kunkel, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research at the U-M Medical School and Endowed Professor of Pathology Research. "This strategic partnership, one of the first of its kind for our institution, speaks to our desire to collaborate with industry to accelerate translation of U-M's cutting-edge research to impact patients."

The new agreement goes beyond the traditional type of academic-industry research relationship, in which companies fund projects such as clinical trials, or license patents on discoveries made by university scientists and develop them on their own. In this new type of agreement, scientists from medical schools and industry collaborate closely on projects – while also preserving academic freedom, research integrity and both sides' rights to intellectual property for discoveries.

"This new horizon in industry-academic partnership ultimately benefits patients, who demand new and better options for treating diseases," says Norman Greenberg, Ph.D., MedImmune's Vice President for Oncology Research and Development. "New types of partnerships between academic biomedical powerhouses such as Michigan, and industry leaders such as MedImmune, are needed to accelerate the search for those options."

The initial focus on oncology leverages the strength of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

U-M cancer scientists, led by center director Max Wicha, M.D., have won more research grant dollars from the National Cancer Institute than researchers at any other academic medical center.

"Working with MedImmune to explore new ways to target treatments is a natural progression of the basic scientific discoveries that our teams have made in the last decade," says Wicha, who is also the Distinguished Professor of Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine at the U-M Medical School.

About the University of Michigan Medical School

Founded in 1850 as the University of Michigan's first professional school, the U-M Medical School has grown into a nationally recognized powerhouse of biomedical research, education and advanced clinical care – and an integral part of the U-M Health System. With an annual sponsored research budget approaching $460 million, UMMS ranks among the top 10 medical schools in the U.S. for funding from the National Institutes of Health and accounts for more than a third of all technology transfer activity at the entire University of Michigan. The UMMS Faculty Group Practice leads the nation in providing integrated and high-quality care, and includes all of the 1,600 U-M faculty physicians who care for patients at U-M's three hospitals and health centers, and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. A faculty of more than 3,000 physicians and scientists, a student and trainee community of more than 3,000, and a dedicated staff, engage in innovative educational initiatives, global outreach and community service. For more information, visit www.med.umich.edu/medschool.

About MedImmune

MedImmune, the global biologics arm of AstraZeneca PLC (LSE: AZN.L, NYSE: AZN), has approximately 3,500 employees worldwide and is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland. For more information, visit MedImmune's website at www.medimmune.com.

SOURCE University of Michigan Health System