The UK drug firm announced the research deal last week, explaining that the idea is to find targets in clinical and molecular data collected by the university’s professor Matthias Kretzler.
Under the agreement, AstraZeneca and Lilly will contribute bioinformatic and scientific capabilities to build on the analyses already begun by Kretzler.
CKD describes a progressive loss of kidney function rather than a specific condition. As a result, there are multiple potential targets and selecting a promising one is a complex process according to AstraZeneca spokeswoman, Karen Birmingham.
“A good target is one with strong validation in humans and with a causal link with the disease progression. In the consortium we will derive target hypotheses from human data” she said, explaining that “we will prioritize by strength of evidence of causality and deprioritize targets that are merely associated with disease progression.”
The next stage is to test the targets in mouse models Birmingham said, telling us that “we will follow a similar path as for all the other programs and we will decide on a case-by-case whether we will run the studies in house or with a CRO.”
Like many of its big pharma peers, AstraZeneca has reduced in-house R&D capacity in favour of outsourcing in recent years. US contract research organisation (CRO) Charles River Laboratories has taken on much of this work under a recently extended strategic deal.
AstraZeneca had made another discovery-focused deals with fellow pharmaceutical firms. In November, the UK firm swapped compound libraries with French manufacturer Sanofi.
At the time AstraZeneca told us it had no concerns about giving Sanofi a potential blockbuster its scientists had missed, arguing that compounds with real potential would have already been spotted by its in-house team.
The firm is also confident working with Lilly will not create competitive concerns according to Birmingham.
“It is a very unlikely situation [that AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly select the same target], given the extent of the database and the different strategic focuses of each company. However, should that be the case, the agreement allows every company to bring some of the discoveries internally and independently develop the drugs for the identified targets.”