LONDON May 9 U.S. drugmaker Pfizer,
battling to buy British rival AstraZeneca, has struck a
deal with leading British universities to hunt for new medicines
to treat rare diseases.
The tie-up with scientists from Cambridge University,
Imperial College London, King's College London, Queen Mary
University London, University College London and Oxford
University is likely to be portrayed as evidence of Pfizer's
commitment to British science.
Its $106 billion takeover approach for AstraZeneca has been
rejected by the British company and criticised by a number of
politicians and scientists who fear it will lead to job cuts
that undermine the country's position in biomedical research.
Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer's research head, said on Friday the
five-year agreement highlighted the vital role of collaboration
between industry and academia in driving the development of new
The project aims to match the scientific expertise of
university researchers with Pfizer's drug discovery and
development knowledge in the specific area of rare diseases,
defined as conditions affecting less than 0.1 percent of the
There are more than 6,000 recognised rare diseases,
affecting about 60 million across Europe and the United States.
Around 80 percent of the disorders are thought to have a genetic
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Keiron Henderson)