The new £2 million partnership puts Exeter as research leader in Europe

New £2 million partnership puts Exeter as research leader in Europe

The University of Exeter has announced a unique collaboration that will pioneer world-leading research to boost the effectiveness and safety of vital new drugs for both patients and the environment.

The partnership will also provide a significant boost for the South West economy, by securing a number of highly-skilled jobs on the University’s Streatham Campus and keeping valuable scientific knowledge within the region.

The ground-breaking new partnership with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca will reinforce Exeter’s burgeoning reputation as a world-leader in (eco) toxicological research.

As well as studying the effects that potential new drugs, designed to treat major illnesses such as cancer and respiratory complaints may have on patients, and therefore improving their route into market, the new research will also help combat potential consequences to the wider environment.

Under the terms of the innovative collaboration, four scientists currently employed at AstraZeneca’s Brixham Environmental Laboratory site, together with a further scientist from Sweden and two PhD students will join world-leading research staff in the University’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences.

The work will use zebra fish to study where in the body the pharmaceuticals act, and how they affect health. Because a significant proportion of all medications make their way into the environment, the research will also monitor the effect any potential new medicine will have on it. The new AZ programmes will take place in the £9 million Aquatic Resources Centre – one of the biggest centres of its kind in Europe.

Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Exeter said “This innovative new partnership will strengthen Exeter’s reputation as a vibrant centre of ground-breaking ecotoxicology research.

“Our research is already making a difference across the world, in ensuring that we understand the fate of chemicals in the environment and how to help manufacture safe and environmentally responsible products. 

“This new partnership with AstraZeneca will ensure we remain at the forefront of ecotoxicology and sustainability research with a recognised leader in the field.”

Charles Tyler, Professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Exeter said: “AstraZeneca is one of the world’s leading experts in pharmaceutical research and we hope this partnership will have far-reaching benefits for both parties. For new and existing drugs fast and efficient testing is becoming even more important in delivering solutions to patients as well as protecting the natural environment.

Steve Rumford, Global Head of Environment for AstraZeneca, said: “This partnership with the University of Exeter, will build on their global expertise in fish biology to provide early screening tools allowing AstraZeneca to assess its development compounds.”

Jason Snape, Principal Environmental Scientist and SHE Research Manager for AstraZeneca, said: “Exeter University and the research group of Professor Charles Tyler was our first choice to externalise AstraZeneca's strategic research efforts to explore the feasibility of greener drug design. This partnership will help maintain the South West of England as one of the global centres of excellence for (eco) toxicology research.”

The new partnership comes after AstraZeneca last year announced it was closing the Brixham Environmental Laboratory, as the work was outside the organisation’s strategic focus.

Date: 9 May 2014

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