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New multi-million pound fund to boost cancer drug development

Fund will bridge development gap for cancer treatments in the UK

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A new fund supported by a leading cancer charity and European money will help to bridge the funding gap in the UK between cancer drug discovery and early development.

Cancer Research Technology (CRT) - Cancer Research UK’s commercial arm - and the European Investment Fund (EIF) have joined together to create a £25m investment fund launched today.

The aim is for the CRT Pioneer Fund to take potential cancer drugs from discovery through to entry to Phase II clinical trials.

The two organisations said it was designed to fund the most innovative oncology research and to plug a large gap in the UK funding of drug discovery.

CRT and the EIF will make equal contributions to the CRT Pioneer Fund and it has been launched with £25m, which it is hoped will be doubled by the founders to £50m if it does well.

The organisations have worked closely with a specialist fund management firm, Sixth Element Capital LLP (6EC), to create and implement the fund and 6EC will establish committees of independent experts to provide guidance on the investment and commercialisation of individual projects.

It is envisaged that at least two thirds of the fund will be used to develop promising scientific discoveries made by Cancer Research UK scientists. This could include projects within CRT’s Discovery Laboratories, the Institute of Cancer Research’s Cancer Therapeutics Unit, Cancer Research UK’s Paterson and Beatson Institutes, and Newcastle University. Other projects may come from other academic groups or industry in the UK. CRT will re-invest its share of any profits derived from the fund in Cancer Research UK’s research.

Dr Keith Blundy, CEO of Cancer Research Technology, said: “The creation of this landmark fund addresses the problem of funding the development gap which is restraining cancer drug development in the UK.

“The gap has appeared because investment from industry has moved away from early stage discovery and there’s less funding for small biotechnology firms who previously helped bridge the gap between academia and pharmaceutical companies.”

Richard Pelly, EIF chief executive, said: “This investment targets a stage of the investment spectrum often neglected by the market. The CRT Pioneer Fund will be capital efficient and primarily follow a licensing model rather than creating companies.

“Both Cancer Research UK and CRT are world leaders in discovering, developing and commercialising cancer treatments, for which there remains a high unmet need, and through their network are able to access excellent research.”

Minister for universities and science, David Willetts, welcomed the development, saying: “In our Strategy for UK Life Sciences we set out ambitious plans to build on the success of the industry by fostering collaboration between our excellent research base and businesses.

“This initiative will complement this work extremely well, helping to take our world-leading science from the laboratory through to benefits for patients and the economy.”

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