Jane Osbourn 1 - CopyBack in September, MedImmune and Cancer Research UK announced a collaboration to establish a joint laboratory in Cambridge, developing new biologic cancer medicines. Here, Jane Osbourn, Site Leader and Vice President of Research at MedImmune, provides the background to this innovative new alliance and its focus for the future.

Whether it’s a discussion of cancer or any other disease, the growing rule of thumb is that no scientist—and no entity that performs science—is an island. Collaborations and shared vision among industry, academia and private organisations are our best chance for tackling ruthless diseases.

This has been part of MedImmune’s approach to research and drug development for quite some time, but our recently announced alliance with Cancer Research UK and its subsidiary Cancer Research Technology (CRT) offers one of the most innovative initiatives in cancer research to date. Through this novel collaboration, we will establish a joint laboratory in Cambridge, UK, focusing on the discovery and development of novel biologic cancer treatments.

But before I get into the details of why we’re so excited about this, I want to remind people of these facts: In 2012, about 14.1 million people worldwide received a new cancer diagnosis. Here in the United Kingdom, cancer is the number one fear. In the United States, cancer is the second most common cause of death, surpassed only by heart disease.

We know there’s plenty of good news. Survival rates for certain types of cancer are improving, more people are tuned in to early detection strategies and we’re getting better at diagnosis. But, treating cancer—and dare I say, curing cancer—remains elusive. This is our vast and challenging unmet need. Yet, I would suggest that even here we are living in a renaissance of knowledge and inquiry. New technologies, and increasing understanding about the mechanisms of cancer, have provided us with tools and information that we didn’t have even just a decade ago.

And, therein lies the beauty and promise of our collaboration with Cancer Research UK.

What makes this partnership unique is not only that we share a vision to eradicate cancer, but that we’ll be working side by side—sharing laboratory space, knowledge and expertise, decisions and management of multiple projects toward the investigation and development of novel cancer biologics. So, what we have is a unified approach that “follows the science,” strips the ego from competing research groups and gets us moving forward in meaningful, promising—and productive—ways.

This dedicated laboratory—the CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory—will be located in Cambridge, UK, amidst a growing hub of science and technology where Cancer Research UK will contribute a portfolio of novel drug targets from across its principal investigator and sourcing institute network, and we will head laboratory activities as well as provide access to our human antibody libraries and technology.

We believe, as do our colleagues at Cancer Research UK, that biologic therapies are an area of significant promise. The antibody technology we have combined with the Cancer Research UK early-stage oncology research platform is a potential powerhouse for generating potential new and successful cancer therapies, in a swift and flexible manner.

Over the initial tenure of our relationship, we’ll jointly review and agree on drug targets for collaboration—and there will be several of these projects. Our decisions will be science-driven, patient-focused and with an eye toward turning new discoveries into treatments that can benefit these patients as quickly as possible.

Creating the CRUK-MEDI Alliance Laboratory has been and will continue to be a labour of dedication and commitment to cancer research—and hopefully, one day, toward achieving a cure.