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AstraZeneca and MedImmune Trigger Public Investments into Brazil's Translational Healthcare

The projects inserts into the industrial diversification strategy of São Paulo State

June 2015. AstraZeneca and its wholly-owned subsidiary MedImmune will run a cardiovascular and metabolic diseases project at Campinas (State of São Paulo, Brazil) over the next five years. For the member state and the country it is an engagement by an international pharmaceutical company which supports needed modernization of public infrastructures for clinical research and promises to lure further foreign investments to Brazil’s diagnostic and pharma sectors.

In March MedImmune and AstraZeneca Brazil signed a clinical development contract with Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Fapesp) to fund research and clinical development at UNICAMP, Unversidade Estadual de Campesinas. Project budget is up to a maximum of BRL12.4m (U$4m; £2.5m; €3.5m). Fapesp is the SP state’s public foundation for translational R&D with international companies mostly from the UK and the United States. Under the terms of the present collaboration the foundation contributes the same amount as the combined sum raised by MedImmune LLC, Gaithersburgh (MD, US) and AstraZeneca do Brasil Ltda., São Paulo. One fifth of the budget is already committed to install state of the art facilities such as the pre-clinical imaging laboratory at UNICAMP resp. Hospital das Clínicas, Campinas.

According to Fapesp the MedImmune project aims to elucidate eight scientific questions in the indication area of metabolic disease:

The second part of projects is even more ambitious. The cardiovascular research programme shall follow research into endothelial dysfunction after myocardial infarction, and will involve experiments for therapeutic transplants of stem cells (including progenitor cells).

 

Life Science Companies Brazil 2009 - BIOMINAS 2009Life Science Companies Sao Paulo BR - BIOMINAS/PwC 2011

The funding is structured as public-private partnership. It backs government plans for industry development by capitalising on the already strong presence of pharma and medtech industries in the SP state as well as decentralising these outside the capital. For example, 38% of Brazil’s biotech companies (Biominas 2009, PwC 2011) are located here. Campinas is the target region. It is a one hour drive Northeast of São Paulo, but counts only 9% of the federal state’s biotech firms, which is the same as in Ribeirão Preto farther in the outback. By contrast the Campinas metropolitan region is an agglomeration of other promising industries The majority of Brazil’s ICT companies is located here. Around companies like Honda, GM or Toyota an automotve cluster developed. The energy sector is strong with petrochemical plants of Shell or Petrobras also venturing into bioethanol or biodiesel manufacturing (e.g. Replan, Paulinia). Not to mention chemical and plant science companies like BASF, Bayer, or DuPont with their agribusiness. There are a few drug company, for example EMS Farma (GERMED, Legrand) a generics manufacturer, albeit the presence of pharma companies is weak in the region. However the university has a track record to support technology and product development of companies. A number of research institutes started up in UNICAMP act as industry catalyst today. One of them is Laboratório Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia do Bioetanol, CTBE which is quite successful to develop biomass conversion technologies in partnership with industry. The policy intention is to apply this recipe to growing the pharma industry in the region.

The latest research centre added to UNICAMP is Centro de Pesquisa, Inovação e Difusão – Obesity and Comorbidities Research Center. This Cepid OCRC was founded in 2013 and became operational mid-year 2014. It is funded by Fapesp which has been increasingly sending projects to UNIKAMP in recent years. Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, Fapesp’s scientific director is concentrating the foundation’s resources to his former university where funds and projects formerly were scattered across the federal state. As long-time Vice-Chancellor of UNIKAMP he built an extensive network in Europe and the United Sates which he leverages for Fapesp today. Stefan Laufer, a Professor of Pharmacy at Tuebingen University and former Head of Drug Screening at Merckle GmbH, Germany is one of the stakeholders advising Cepid OCRC. The centre’s mission is tailored to the interests of the stakeholders. Research problems focus on obesity and related pathologies, for instance diabetes type II, hypertension, anti-inflammatory processes, or renal diseases. Projects concentrate on applied epidemiology, diagnostics and therapies, for example druggable targets which include bioactives from traditional medicinal plants. Fapesp is instrumental to economic policy-making.

In addition to attract foreign direct investments of pharma companies and channel these into modernising local research infrastructures, Fapesp’s strategy is designed to infuse needed technological know how into Brazil’s lagging pharma sector through operating conjoint R&D programmes on a temporary basis. The issues selected mobilise public subsidies and political support in the country. Malnutrition and obesity in particular are a rising concern in Brazil’s healthcare system (see B2Boworld). According to Lício Velloso, co-ordinator of Cedip OCRC and specialised in anti-inflammatory and metabolic diseases about 20 percent of the country’s population currently is obese. Their number is expected to grow to 25 percent during the next ten years.

While partners agreed to run the project over five years, this depends on reaching defined milestones. The roles are clear. Fapesp acts as broker. MedImmune steers research together with UNIKAMP. AstraZeneca’s Brazilian branch will accompany it on the side of public affairs. Beyond the use of smart analytical technologies, conforming regulatory rules, or delivering tangible research results, the audience is expected to have their eye on these partners ensuring good governance.

 

Wolf G Kroner, contributed Joaquim Gomes

 

References

 

PriceWaterhouseCoopers/Biominas (2011): A Indústria de Biociências Nacional: Caminhos para o Crescimento. Belo Horizonte.

Fundação Biominas (2009): Estudo das Empresas de Biociências do Brasil 2009.Belo Horizonte: http://www.biominas.org.br/download.php?idicod=1#dialog.

 

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