The firms announced they had swapped more than 200,000 compounds from their respective libraries in a like-for-like exchange intended to give each a greater pool of molecules to screen against disease targets.
An AstraZeneca spokeswoman told us “In essence, chemists from both side met and agreed, almost one-by-one, which compounds would be exchanged” explaining that each firm then added the selected molecules to their respective libraries.
Once added compounds derived from the Sanofi library were indistinguishable from those already in AstraZeneca’s collection and vice versa. The firms are now free to take any molecule identified in subsequent screening into medicinal chemistry and drug development with no strings attached.
This creates the possibility that Sanofi spots potential in a compound originally developed by AstraZeneca, however, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker still fancies its chances in the race to develop new drug products.
“We are confident in the ability of our scientists to identify compounds with potential…if there is something there, we are sure we can find it ourselves” the AstraZeneca spokeswoman added.
She went on to say that even if Sanofi and AstraZeneca happen to select the same compound in the beginning, the iterative drug development process would mean any resulting medicines would be very different.
Sanofi’s willingness to exchange compounds was not shared by some of the other drug firms AstraZeneca approached according to the spokeswoman, who told us others had not been open to the idea of exchanging “chemical equity” on a complete, “no strings attached” basis.
The swap deal comes just days after AstraZeneca signed new partnerships to ensure access to screening technologies at the lead discovery centre it is setting up in Cambridge, UK.
The centre, which will be located at the global R&D hub AstraZeneca is setting up at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, will be kitted out in collaboration with new partners HighRes Biosolutions, Labcyte, Brooks Automation and software firm Genedata.