July 22, 2015 at 5:57 PM

MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, and the University of Sheffield have announced that they have entered into a multi-project research collaboration to generate breakthrough research in cell factory technology, the process by which living cells can be controlled and manipulated to make specific proteins with therapeutic benefits. 

As part of the five-year collaboration, MedImmune will provide funding and in-kind contributions to support University of Sheffield post-doctoral and doctoral research projects to address key challenges in cell engineering. The aim is to produce tools to ensure that manufacturing success is “designed in” from a much earlier stage than occurs with current screening-based strategies to improve the development and production of biologic medicines. The collaboration will focus on harnessing expertise from both MedImmune and the world-leading group in the University’s Advanced Biomanufacturing Centre to advance research specifically in mammalian cell factories.

Researchers from MedImmune and the University will exchange research materials and move easily between sites and state-of-the-art facilities and will work closely as an integrated team. A Joint Steering Committee (JSC) comprised of equal members from both institutions will select the research projects and may choose to seek additional grant funding from other sources to generate further high quality, collaborative work. 

“We are pleased to enter into this strategic collaboration with the University of Sheffield to generate transformative cell factory tools that can potentially improve the way new therapies are delivered to patients,” said Gail Wasserman, Senior Vice President, Biopharmaceutical Development, MedImmune. “This multi-year commitment provides MedImmune with a strong partner in cell factory research and may allow select complex proteins to be more rapidly and effectively manufactured to produce life-changing therapies.”

The partnership will transform the current manufacturing process by creating tools that could increase yield and improve predictability for engineered proteins such as bispecific antibodies and other innovative proteins that have the potential to treat a range of diseases. In addition to MedImmune scientists, experts and infrastructure from the University’s Departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, and Biomedical Sciences will participate in the partnership. The collaboration builds on an existing relationship between MedImmune and the University by further investing in bioprocessing research.

“This partnership will enable us to significantly advance cell engineering technology able to speed the development of MedImmune's new biopharmaceutical medicines," says Professor David James, Director of the Advanced Biomanufacturing Centre at the University of Sheffield.  "Together we will design and create new cell factories specifically fit for purpose that can overcome natural limitations in cellular manufacturing performance.”