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World's largest collection of deprioritised pharma compounds opens to researchers

8 Dec 2014

A collection of 68 deprioritised pharmaceutical compounds is being made available to academic researchers through a partnership between the Medical Research Council (MRC) and seven global drug companies, the largest of its kind in the world.

From today, UK scientists can apply for MRC funding to use any of the compounds in medical research studies to investigate the underlying mechanics of disease, which may lead to the development of more effective treatments for a range of conditions.

Both clinical (those already tested in humans) and preclinical compounds feature in the extensive collection, which includes molecules developed initially for a wide range of diseases including for cancer, ADHD, narcolepsy and diabetes. At least 24 are known to cross into the brain, which might make them particularly interesting for neurological studies.

AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Research & Development LLC, Lilly, Pfizer, Takeda and UCB have each offered up a number of their deprioritised molecules as part of the partnership, which was first announced by Business Secretary Vince Cable in July 2014.

The compounds have all undergone some degree of industry development, but have stalled at some point in early testing – often because they were not sufficiently effective against the disease in question.

These compounds are extremely valuable to academic researchers, who can use them to study other diseases. They may even help identify new ways of interrupting the disease process, which could in turn lead to the development of new medicines.

As many of the compounds in the library have already been shown to be suitable for human tests, any new treatments arising from the research could reach patients much faster. In fact, a project funded through a previous compound sharing partnership between the MRC and AstraZeneca has already reached human trials.3

Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the MRC, said:

“The sheer size and scope of the asset pool being offered up by our industry partners is unprecedented and will be highly attractive to academic researchers. Our previous collaboration with AstraZeneca attracted a huge amount of interest and saw the MRC fund 15 projects utilising their 22 compounds. I can’t wait to see what innovative new ideas will spring up from our talented UK science base now that three times as many compounds are on the table. There is real potential here to make a huge dent in some of the most debilitating diseases, for which treatments have remained elusive.”

Dr Neil Weir, Chair of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s (ABPI) Innovation Board said:

“This new pool of molecules, made available through this pioneering partnership between the pharmaceutical industry and the MRC, opens up a wealth of innovative possibilities in the hands of academic researchers which might otherwise not have been available. The ABPI and its members are delighted to be leading the way worldwide with the MRC and initiatives such as this. Our commitment to greater collaboration with UK researchers and the academic community will improve understanding of diseases so that we can continue to develop life-changing medicines for the benefit of patients.”

Researchers can apply to use the compounds via the MRC’s normal response-mode funding mechanism. The MRC will independently judge the scientific quality of the applications and award funding accordingly. The rights to any intellectual property (IP) generated using the compounds will vary from project to project, but will be equitable and similar to those currently used in academically-led research.

It is hoped that more companies, and more compounds, will be added as the scheme progresses.

Further information

A list of all the compounds is available here. (XLSX, 18KB)

Journalists with media enquiries can contact the MRC press office, T: 0207 395 2345 (out of hours: 07818 428 297), E: press.office@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk.

Researchers interesting in applying to use the compounds can contact Dr Jo Latimer, E: joanna.latimer@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk.


  • Categories: Funding
  • Health categories: Neurological, Other
  • Locations: Other
  • Type: News Article