MRC extends Blue Sky research collaboration with AstraZeneca

Exterior of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology building

The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) have agreed to an additional $4 million funding to extend the Blue Sky collaboration with AstraZeneca beyond 2022.

The Blue Sky collaboration, launched in 2014, has supported a range of pre-clinical research projects which encourage ‘blue sky’ thinking around fundamental biology and disease.

The impact of the collaboration has been significant since the launch, with some notable project discoveries listed below.

Project discoveries

Scientists find circadian rhythms in heart cells help to change heart function

Researchers in John O’Neill’s group, in the MRC LMB’s Cell Biology Division, and Peter Newham at AstraZeneca discovered a mechanism whereby circadian rhythms within heart cells help to change heart function.

Find out more about how cellular clocks within heart cells coordinate daily cardiac rhythms.

The first 3D structure of ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM)

The Medical Research Council (MRC) LMB Group Leader Roger Williams and Structural Biologist Chris Phillips at AstraZeneca revealed the first three-dimensional structural model of ATM.

ATM is a key regulator of the DNA damage response which signals pathway and target for cancer therapies.

Find out more about the dynamic structure of human DNA repair enzyme, ATM.

Quality control in cancer cells revealed

MRC LMB Group Leader Manu Hegde and then Associate Principal Scientist from AstraZeneca Ana Narvaez uncovered one pathway responsible for disposing of unusable proteins.

These proteins are produced in high quantity in cancer cells owing to their mutated and rearranged genomes.

Find out more about quality control in cancer cells.

Providing tools and technology

Professor John Iredale, MRC Executive Chair said:

Since the formation in 2014, the Blue Sky initiative has provided researchers with the tools and technology to tackle some of the most difficult questions in fundamental biology and disease.

Which is why we are thrilled to extend this important collaboration between the LMB and AstraZeneca.

The extension of this collaboration will enable further innovative research which will build on the findings from scientists from the two organisations.

Delivering outstanding science

Jan Löwe, Director of the MRC LMB, said:

We are extremely pleased that our innovative collaboration with AstraZeneca continues.

Blue Sky projects will continue to deliver outstanding science and give us access to amazing people and resources.

We consider Blue Sky to be the LMB’s flagship industrial collaboration and are very proud of the science it delivers.

Important academic and industry partnerships

Sir Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice-President BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca, said:

Understanding the biology of the disease is critical to developing the next wave of life-changing medicines for patients where there is still huge unmet need.

The Blue Sky collaboration with the MRC LMB epitomises the importance of academic and industry partnerships in helping turn science into medicine, and we are thrilled to be continuing this initiative.

Top image:  Exterior of the MRC LMB building (credit: MRC LMB).

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