Our R&D focus areas

AstraZeneca’s Open Innovation program allows scientists from anywhere in the world to access our compound library and drug discovery platforms to support the discovery of new disease pathways and medicines



The path to new treatments

The future of treatment for many of today’s diseases lies in uncovering mechanisms that are newly emerging or still to be discovered. Focusing our intellect and resources in specific disease areas is the most effective manner to achieve truly breakthrough therapies. Our focus areas are Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolism; Oncology; Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity; and Neuroscience.

By exchanging resources and knowledge with leading scientists around the world, we aim to accelerate the discovery of novel therapies for unmet medical needs.

Partnering with academic and industry scientists outside AstraZeneca is critical. Combining our strengths and resources with the expertise and knowledge of our partners will ultimately benefit patients. We want partnering with us to be an easy and straightforward experience.

Kumar Srinivasan VP, Scientific Partnering & Alliances, IMED Biotech unit, AstraZeneca

Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolism

Following the science to stop, reverse and cure cardiovascular, renal and metabolic diseases

We collaborate with key experts throughout the world to accelerate our scientific progress, and to further define patient populations that may benefit from the novel cardio-renal-metabolic therapies we are developing.

Regina Fritsche-Danielson Head of Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolism, IMED Biotech Unit, AstraZeneca


AstraZeneca has a patient-centric approach to disease treatment; our mission is to save the lives of patients by jointly addressing their cardio-renal and metabolic (CVRM) risks. We follow the science to develop novel innovative treatments with the goal to slow the progression of Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolic diseases, and ultimately, modify or even halt the natural course of the disease and regenerate organs. We are agnostic to drug modality, we identify and validate novel targets based on genetics and human target validation and then apply the best modality to modulate the target. Our aim is to further reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, as well as organ damage, by addressing multiple cardiovascular risk factors. 

Areas of research interest

Heart Failure

Our focus is on discovering and developing disease-modifying treatments for heart failure by investing in novel modalities enabling us to target key pathways driving disease in selected patient populations. Our research is focused on pathways and targets involved in cardiac regeneration, cardiac metabolism and on improving cardiomyocyte function. Our disease-modifying approaches have the potential to provide differentiated therapies to cure heart failure with reduced and preserved ejection fraction.

Diabetes and NASH

Our scientific focus is on improving islet health and reversing non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We are discovering novel therapies by using innovative technologies such as stem cells and genetics, to explore islet, adipocyte and liver biology. We emphasise new modalities, including peptides, modRNA and antisense oligonucleotides If successful, our research may one day result in unique treatments for sustained glucose control and reversal of NASH.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

We focus on delivering therapies to halt, slow or reverse the progression of kidney disease. This includes targets involved in vascular, glomerular and tubular health and cardiac-diabetic-renal relationships. We use human genomics and transcriptomics as well as human cell systems to identify and validate novel targets. Genetics and patient specific biomarkers are also used to stratify patients who are most likely to benefit from a given therapy. If successful, such therapies could offer patient-centric approaches to treating chronic kidney disease.

Oncology

Our vision is to redefine the cancer treatment paradigm, and eliminate cancer as a cause of death.

AstraZeneca has a deep and broad oncology development programme to address unmet needs across a wide range of cancers. We have built a network of world-class collaborations and our open innovation research initiative complements our own efforts brilliantly.

Susan Galbraith Head of Oncology, IMED Biotech Unit, AstraZeneca


AstraZeneca has scientific leadership in four core biology areas: DNA Damage Response, Tumour Drivers and Resistance mechanisms, Immuno-Oncology and Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs). The Oncology Biotech Unit in the IMED focuses on the first three areas, and MedImmune is focused on Immuno-Oncology biologics and ADCs.

Through innovative drug discovery and a deep understanding of cancer biology we aim to deliver precision medicines by developing novel targeted therapies partnered with patient stratification.

With a strong franchise across multiple solid tumours and an emerging franchise in haematological malignancies, our ambition is to deliver life-changing medicines to address areas of unmet medical need. In development, we are employing innovative clinical trial design to evaluate the activity of multiple agents simultaneously with the aim of ensuring the best medicines reach the right patients. 

One of the biggest challenges in cancer treatment is resistance. Understanding clinically relevant mechanisms of resistance is central to our approach for developing novel drugs to tackle this. In addition, we are harnessing our industry-leading oncology pipeline through combinations, with the aim of achieving stronger anti-tumour responses, addressing resistance and reaching poorly served patient populations.

Areas of research interest

Tumour drivers and resistance mechanisms

In tumours with genetic drivers, potent inhibition of those drivers can lead to tumour reduction and improvement in progression-free survival. However, many tumours eventually develop resistance to therapy. We seek to target both genetic mutations and resistance mechanisms to drive towards more meaningful clinical improvements for patients.

Immuno-Oncology therapies

Activating and directing the immune system to fight cancer

Recent data demonstrates that immuno-mediated therapies can produce durable remissions and the possibility of a dramatic improvement in survival.  We are developing a broad portfolio of these agents for use as monotherapy, as well as combinations with other immuno-oncology agents and targeted drugs in our small molecule portfolio to exploit mechanistic synergies.

DNA damage response (DDR)

Exploiting pathway dependencies to potentially induce cancer death

AstraZeneca has a world leading portfolio of agents that target complementary aspects of DDR to maximise tumour cell DNA damage by blocking repair pathways and removing cell cycle checkpoints. By targeting tumour-specific DDR dependencies to preferentially kill cancer cells we aim to deliver efficacious and well tolerated therapies to improve survival in multiple cancers. To increase efficacy, we are exploring novel combinations of DDR inhibitors with each other as well as standard of care and IO agents.

Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity

Transforming disease management and patient outcomes

Respiratory diseases represent a main therapeutic area for AstraZeneca. Partnering with leading scientists helps us to accelerate the development of drugs that could potentially change the natural history of these diseases and lead to disease arrest, remission and cure.

Maria Belvisi Head of Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity, IMED Biotech Unit, AstraZeneca


For 40 years, AstraZeneca has been pushing the boundaries of science in respiratory disease and we continue to break new ground by following the science.

Areas of research interest

We recently reshaped our strategic research focus into three mechanistic and complementary areas in chronic lung disease: Lung Immunity, Lung Epithelium and Lung Regeneration.

Lung Immunity is an area of strong competence within our respiratory research group, which aims to discover disease-modifying therapies that reverse immunological imbalances in the lung.  Our scientific focus in this key area is on immunomodulation, lung microbiome, and cell metabolism and plasticity.

The lung epithelium was once considered nothing more than a mere physical barrier to the environment, but we now have a much better understanding of the active role of these important respiratory cells.  Our research goal in lung epithelium biology and lung regeneration is to restore normal tissue architecture and lung epithelial integrity and to investigate the mechanisms of cell senescence in the pulmonary epithelium within populations at risk for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).  Along with targeting aberrant epithelial biology and lung fibrosis, and restoring an appropriate immune response in the lung, we hope to promote lung regeneration in all chronic lung diseases.

Our aspiration is to move beyond the current era of highly effective symptomatic treatments to the next generation of medicines that can change the course of disease and bring about remissions and cures.

When science takes us beyond our core focus areas into other diseases, we are open to exploring partnering routes and open innovation as a way of addressing unmet medical needs.

Neuroscience

Advancing patient care in neurodegenerative diseases with unmet medical needs

We collaborate across academia and industry with the ultimate goal of developing new medicines as quickly as possible for people with neurological disorders or disease.

Iain Chessell Head of Neuroscience, IMED Biotech Unit, AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca continues to push the boundaries of science in neuroscience in collaboration with other innovative partners across industry and academia. Our IMED Neuroscience team focuses on the discovery and development of new treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders as well as chronic pain, across small molecules, biologics and new modalities such as PROTACs and ASOs.

Areas of research interest

Neurodegenerative diseases

We are pursuing pathways and targets for multiple neurodegenerative diseases, including mitochondrial dysfunction, protein transmission, autophagy, and neuroinflammation.  Disease interests include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Analgesia

We are focused on targeting pathways with potential for step-change efficacy compared with existing treatments, agents that provide robust efficacy in add-on settings and effectively treat non-responders to existing treatments. Our near-term approaches are aimed at:

  • Reducing afferent activation and transmission of nociceptive signals
  • Reducing peripheral sensitization
  • Preventing or reversing central sensitization
  • Modulation of signalling in spinal cord

Psychiatry

We are using recent advances in human genetics to identify targets and pathways for therapeutic intervention as well as capitalising on emerging biology around neuronal circuits known to be dysfunctional in disease. We focus on novel approaches to meeting high unmet needs in defined patient populations not treated effectively by existing therapies, including:

  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Addiction disorders