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AstraZeneca taps outside experts to screen cancer compounds

LONDON (Reuters) - British drugmaker AstraZeneca is deepening its collaboration with academia by roping in more outside researchers to help to find new cancer drugs.

Scientists at the Cancer Research UK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Manchester will use the company's compounds as a starting point to hunt for potential new drugs, the partners said on Friday.

The company is also, for the first time, inviting external researchers to work on compounds within its own screening facility at Alderley Park in northwest England.

The move is the latest example of how the pharmaceutical industry is experimenting with new research models involving greater tie-ups with external partners.

Last October, British academic researchers won 7 million pounds ($11 million) of funding from the country's Medical Research Council to investigate a range of potential new drugs made available by AstraZeneca under another project.

Many drug companies are looking outside their own walls for help in developing new medicines and the concept has been embraced particularly enthusiastically by AstraZeneca, which has suffered a lean period of in-house discovery.

Last year, for example, the group decided to slash its internal neuroscience research staff to around 40 from more than 800, creating instead a "virtual" research unit for brain disorders. ($1 = 0.6375 British pounds)

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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