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Setting sights on the drugs of the future

Researchers at The University of Nottingham have joined forces with one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca, to single out potential medicines of the future.

In a unique collaboration between academia and the pharmaceutical industry, teams of experts from both sides gathered together at an ‘ideas generation’ event, designed specifically to identify new areas for research into treatments that can be targeted at cancer, arthritis, cardio-pulmonary disease and other conditions.

The partnership underlines the significance of the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)/AstraZeneca Doctoral Training Centre at the University, set up in 2006 as a direct collaboration with an industry partner to help develop pioneering treatments based on ‘targeted therapeutics’ — regarded as one of the significant future areas in 21st century medicine and in which The University of Nottingham is a UK leader.

The principle behind targeted therapeutics is to send medicines to the parts of the body where they are most needed, at the right time and in the right dose. In this way, diseased sites can be attacked directly, while healthy cells are bypassed, increasing the efficacy of the treatment and reducing side effects.

The University’s £2.5 million EPSRC/AstraZeneca Doctoral Training Centre is training 25 of the UK’s most promising pharmacy PhD students over the next five years in targeted therapeutics. Some of these PhD projects will now focus on ideas generated by the recent ‘ideas generation’ event with AstraZeneca. The ideas which came out of the day-and-a-half meeting, focused on a range of topics including chemistry of new drug delivery systems, biophysical analysis of dosage forms, process analytical technologies and cellular transport of drugs and drug carriers.

Dr Amanda Zeffman, Project Officer, said that the event was one of the first such meetings to take place between academics and scientists from industry.

Dr Zeffman said: “The intention was to generate ideas for PhD projects within the Doctoral Training Centre as well as to encourage general discussion in a relaxed environment, and it was extremely successful.

“By bringing together academics from the Schools of Chemistry, Maths, Computer Science and Physics, with PARD (Pharmaceutical and Analytical Research and Development) and discovery teams from AstraZeneca, we are able to combine the best of academia and industry to establish mutual interests and get a unique perspective on key areas in targeted therapeutics.”

EPSRC's first Doctoral Training Centres were launched in 2002 by EPSRC's Life Sciences Interface Programme. They offer a multi-disciplinary approach to postgraduate training bridging the gap between the medical, biological and physical sciences.

In the Nottingham Doctoral Training Centre, during the initial year of the four-year PhD, students will receive a thorough grounding in pharmaceutical sciences and will spend the first six months completing three, eight-week training projects, of which one is based within AstraZeneca. Each rotation will be in a different research group to enable students to benefit fully from the breadth of research being conducted in the School and by AstraZeneca.

The remaining three years of their time at the centre will be spent working on research projects centred on the theme of targeted therapeutics and drawing on everything from pharmaceutical nanotechnology and biopharmaceuticals to advanced physical, mathematical and life sciences.

AstraZeneca is a global leader in six major areas of healthcare — cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, infection, neuroscience, oncology and respiratory and inflammation — and the partnership with the company will provide a key commercial and clinical focus for the centre. It will improve the prospects of the students gaining jobs within the pharmaceutical industry after completing their training.

Emma Thorne | alfa
Further information:

Further reports about: AstraZeneca Doctoral PhD Pharmaceutical Therapeutics targeted

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