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  • Blog Post

A Design for Oncology Discovery

Publish Date

29 JUN 2018


Andree Blaukat, PhD


Collaboration is an essential element of our ambition to fully understand and address the complexity of human disease.

Our collaboration with Cancer Research UK and the Institute of Cancer Research, London

No matter the industry, it’s true that research and development is a risky business. Our specific goal of bringing drug candidates into clinical trials and ultimately to patients isn’t a new enterprise. It’s universal and many organizations are trying to do the same thing. What sets us apart, though, is the art of collaboration – how we shape and manage our joint efforts to discover and develop exciting new cancer medicines.

Extending our values into our collaborations  

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is unique in its origin and 70% of the company is still owned by the Merck family. The culture of family values permeates the organization like freshly brewed coffee and allows us to be robust and agile - we can carefully balance curiosity and innovation with our long-term vision to make great things happen. Our principles extend beyond company walls, and are exemplified in our long-standing relationship with the Cancer Research UK organization, in particular, with their Therapeutics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). This is academic drug discovery at its finest, and their track record speaks for itself.

Together, we can 

Recently, we’ve embarked on a new collaboration that combines independent projects all aimed at identifying novel anti-cancer drugs and biomarkers, but across a variety of diverse targets that fit well into our innovation clusters of oncogenic signaling, DNA repair, and stress & plasticity. I oversee the projects together with my collaborators at the Cancer Research UK Therapeutics Unit. We’ve built joint teams with complementary strengths, and operate with a high degree of flexibility and transparency to fine-tune our experimental and data processes and readily redistribute resources, depending on project needs.

Finding the right design for discovery 

We’re in the very early stages of the project, and so far, it is one of the most enjoyable and pleasant collaborations I’ve ever experienced. The teams are productive, constructive and very pragmatic about solving problems. We engage in these types of collaborations because we know that we can be more innovative and pursue novel targets, or targets that are challenging in terms of their biology. In addition, our collaboration gives us the capability to transition our ideas quickly to the clinic. ICR has a close relationship with the Royal Marsden Hospital, which houses one of the largest, most established Phase I clinical trial units in Europe.

I believe we’ve discovered the right blueprint for collaboration between industry and academia and that our combination of great science with deep clinical expertise will accelerate our discovery.


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