A unique collaboration that will pioneer world-leading research into vital new drugs for both patients and the environment, has been announced by the University of Exeter this morning.
The £2 million partnership with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which has been the subject of a £60 billion-plus deal by US drug giant Pfizer, will reinforce Exeter’s burgeoning reputation as a world-leader in ecotoxicological research.
It will also provide a significant economic boost by securing a number of highly-skilled jobs on the university’s Streatham Campus and keeping valuable scientific knowledge within the region.
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.
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 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.”
Under the terms of the agreement, 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 programmes will take place in the £9 million Aquatic Resources Centre – one of the biggest centres of its kind in Europe.
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.”
Jason Snape, Principal Environmental Scientist at AstraZeneca, said: “Exeter University and the research group of Prof 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.
The company announced in December it was donating the laboratory, including its equipment, to Plymouth University to serve scientific and research purposes to benefit Torbay and beyond.
The transfer is being formally marked with an event at the facility today.