MedImmune and Nist Partner to advance development of biological therapies

GAITHERSBURG, Md.—MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the signing of a five-year agreement to jointly support research that will help advance drug discovery and manufacturing. The effort will focus on tools and measurements that will be used in the development and production of biopharmaceuticals, which are drugs and treatments derived from biological, rather than chemical, sources.

Under the new agreement, MedImmune is providing first-year funding for seven NIST postdoctoral scientists, each working on a joint MedImmune/NIST research project. These projects will seek to better understand mechanisms of action, structures and other biological and chemical principles useful in drug development, engineering and formulation, and help create measurement tools to facilitate that knowledge.

“MedImmune is committed to partnering with premier institutions that can translate strong science into patient benefit,” said Bahija Jallal, executive vice president, MedImmune. “NIST offers a unique expertise that can facilitate more precise, timely and innovative approaches to drug discovery, and being conveniently located with us in Gaithersburg, further supports the burgeoning life sciences community in Maryland.”

“This partnership brings together MedImmune’s deep industry understanding and NIST’s measurement expertise to expand our knowledge of biopharmaceuticals—a growing field with huge economic and health impacts,” said Willie May, acting under secretary of commerce for standards and technology and acting NIST director.

Among the initial MedImmune/NIST collaborations are:

  • Developing a new, sensitive form of Raman spectroscopy (a technique that provides information about molecular vibrations that can be used to identify and quantify samples) to rapidly determine that proteins used in biopharmaceuticals are properly folded and able to interact with other molecules as intended;
  • Helping researchers identify potential targets for therapeutic agents by establishing a library of the mass spectra, the “fingerprints” of molecules, for proteins on the surface of cells that have roles in specific diseases;
  • Developing methods to produce three-dimensional structural maps with resolution at the atomic level for the largest class of proteins used for medical therapies, called monoclonal antibodies, and;
  • Using neutron beams to understand at the molecular level why some proteins used in biopharmaceuticals unfold during their manufacture.

Along with funding for the seven postdoctoral associates, MedImmune will supply NIST with monoclonal antibodies and other proprietary materials needed by the researchers. Work will be conducted at both the MedImmune and NIST campuses, which are located just over a kilometer from each other in Gaithersburg, Md. The effort will be supported by two MedImmune departments—Biopharmaceutical Development and Antibody Discovery and Protein Engineering—and NIST’s Materials Measurement Laboratory. Access also will be provided to two NIST national user facilities, the NIST Center for Neutron Research and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

The research will be conducted under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), the principal mechanism used by federal laboratories to engage in collaborative efforts with nonfederal partners to achieve the goals of technology transfer. CRADAs allow the exchange of resources with private industry to advance technologies that can then be commercialized for the benefit of the public and the U.S. economy. Both parties plan to publish the results of their research under the CRADA.

MedImmune is the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of small molecule and biologic prescription medicines.MedImmune is pioneering innovative research and exploring novel pathways across key therapeutic areas, including respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity; cardiovascular and metabolic disease; oncology; neuroscience; and infection and vaccines. The MedImmune headquarters is located in Gaithersburg, Md., one of AstraZeneca’s three global R&D centers. For more information, visit

As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. For more information, visit

Tracy Rossin, MedImmune
(301) 398-1468

Michael E. Newman, NIST
(301) 975-3025