Innovation & Enterprise


UCL and AstraZeneca collaborate on immuno-oncology research

4 February 2021

Researchers from the UCL Division of Infection & Immunity will lead on two collaborative projects with AstraZeneca. The projects’ long-term aim is to contribute to the development of new cancer treatments.

Someone in a science lab transferring liquids between containers using a pippet

These research collaborations will investigate immune checkpoints which are key biochemical pathways that regulate our body’s immune responses. These are important in a number of conditions, including cancer and autoimmune diseases. 

Immune checkpoints carry out the important role of keeping our immune response at normal levels, and therefore not harming healthy cells. However, they can also ‘block’ specialist cells within our immune system from attacking and destroying cancer cells.

Checkpoint inhibitor drugs, a type of immunotherapy, have revolutionised cancer treatment in the last decade, showing outstanding clinical results in patients with solid tumours. 

The two UCL AstraZeneca projects are focused on increasing our understanding of immune checkpoint mechanisms and how we can manipulate them, with the aim of ultimately leading to new immunotherapy approaches.

Sharing expertise

UCL uses unique preclinical models and an array of molecular and cell biology techniques to study these pathways. AstraZeneca will provide a number of novel compounds, with both sides sharing and building on their respective research expertise.

The Business & Innovation Partnerships team and UCL Consultants (UCLC), part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise, supported the development of these collaborations. 

Dr Kathryn Walsh, Executive Director, Office of the Vice-Provost (Enterprise), UCL said: “These collaborations with AstraZeneca will bring together some of the very best minds in immuno-oncology. Working together, experts from both institutions will push the boundaries of our understanding of the role of the body’s immune system. In the future, these insights will play a valuable role in how we will be able to develop new treatments to help patients with solid tumours.”

Professor Emma Morris, Director, UCL Division of Infection & Immunity, said: “We are delighted to bring our outstanding track record of innovative research to contribute to this collaboration, which will explore the basic cellular and molecular immunological mechanisms controlling normal and abnormal immune responses”.


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