After six years of focusing on developing small molecule drug candidates and humanizing therapeutic mAbs, both mostly from U.K. source, MRC Technology, the commercialization arm of the country's Medical Research Council, is taking its search for new assets to Asia. MRC Technology has taken its first steps on that front through a deal with the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The MRC is the U.K.'s largest publicly funded biomedical research organization. MRC Technology initially provided technology transfer services exclusively to MRC but now works with multiple charitable and academic organizations.

MRC Technology is a not-for-profit technology transfer company that offers IP management and commercial development of healthcare-related science to scientific organizations. The income generated helps fund further research in the originating scientific organizations.

The company has an in-house screening facility, chemical libraries of about 120,000 compounds and the medicinal chemistry expertise of researchers at MRC Technology's Centre for Therapeutics Discovery. In addition, MRC Technology has access to about 100,000 proprietary compounds that are target-based and 22 shelved compounds through a deal with AstraZeneca plc.

Under MRC Technology's deal with the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (SIBCB) to identify new targets for drug development, the institute will share access to potential new targets, which can be further developed at the Centre for Therapeutics Discovery.

"We are always looking for innovative science that might be attractive to pharmaceutical companies further down the drug discovery pipeline," said Michael Dalrymple, director of business development at MRC Technology.

According to Zi Zhang, MRC Technology's business development manager in charge of the partnership, "We chose SIBCB because of its long history and past achievements and because of it being recognized as a flagship institute by the Chinese life science community."

MRC Technology said it has not yet discussed financial terms or rights to IP with SIBCB.

"MRC Technology and SIBCB will share access to those potential targets and secondary assays. Any tool compounds found can be used to validate those targets in collaboration with the original principal investigator," noted Dalrymple. "Ultimately, MRC Technology's collaborative drug discovery engine relies on identifying top scientists and institutes so that we can plug into the cutting-edge biology and, working with the scientists, identify good targets."

He added, "At this stage we are target and indication agnostic. We're really just looking for interesting science that could provide potential targets for unmet medical needs. While we're not focused on unmet medical needs of China per se, if those targets shake out first, even better."

"We hope to show that collaborations in China can be successful by identifying innovative druggable targets with SIBCB and developing potent and selective novel therapeutics as quickly as we can-18-36 months would be ideal," said Dalrymple. "If or when we do show our Shanghai collaboration is successful, we already have a short list of other Chinese institutes we'd also like to reach out to."

U.S. deal

Earlier this year, MRC Technology announced a partnership to apply MRC Technology's antibody humanization capabilities to Mount Sinai School of Medicine's mouse antibodies against targets in infectious disease, drug addiction and autoimmune disease (see "MRC Technology deals").

Mount Sinai will generate mAbs against targets that have successfully been through MRC Technology's antibody review process and selected for development. MRC Technology will provide humanization by altering the mouse antibody's molecular structure to make it compatible for therapeutic use in humans without affecting its binding specificity.

A number of MRC Technology's collaborations already have progressed beyond the screening phase at the Centre for Therapeutics Discovery. Ongoing programs include 10 different targets and span 7 indications (see "Centre for Therapeutics Discovery").

Baas, T. SciBX 5(49); doi:10.1038/scibx.2012.1274 Published online Dec. 20, 2012


AstraZeneca plc (LSE:AZN; NYSE:AZN), London, U.K.

Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Medical Research Council, London, U.K.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, N.Y.

MRC Technology, London, U.K.

Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Shanghai, China