Cancer Research UK launches innovation unit

Cancer Research UK has launched an innovation unit for drug discovery and commercialisation that aims to “combine the power of academia and industry.”

Cancer Research Horizons will give industry partners access to the charity’s network of 4,000 cancer researchers and to over £400 million of research annually in order to “accelerate the pace” at which new discoveries reach patients, CRUK said. Cancer Research UK, unveiled Cancer Research Horizons, its new and ambitious approach to driving innovation in the development of new treatments for patients, by combining the power of academia and industry.

Horizons will bring under one umbrella for the first time Cancer Research UK’s established drug discovery laboratories, network of world-class biology, cutting-edge technology platforms and clinical expertise, offering a unique R&D portfolio to potential industry partners.

Horizons will also provide research commercialisation support, intellectual property advice, an entrepreneurial programme and £30m of seed funding* to help tackle the translational gap.

Under Horizons, industry partners will gain access to Cancer Research UK’s extensive network of 4,000 world-leading cancer researchers and a discovery research portfolio investment of over £400 million annually.

This includes an end-to-end drug discovery offering from initial concept through to patient benefit, including state-of-the-art CRISPR technologies, hit discovery methods, and unique access to relevant disease models.

Dr Iain Foulkes**, who has been appointed as the new CEO of Cancer Research Horizons, said: “I am delighted to take the helm of Horizons where we can build on our strong track record of drug discovery and development, which includes abiraterone and rucaparib. As the second-largest out-licensor of cancer research globally we have an important role to play in the life science sector. “Our ambitions for this new organisation are higher than ever, through Cancer Research UK we fund some of the best research in the world – we want our innovation outputs to match this both in terms of volume, diversity and quality. Horizons will work hand in hand with our biopharma partners to expand our drug discovery efforts and accelerate the pace at which new medicines reach patients.”

Horizons will also receive a £220m investment from Cancer Research UK over the next 10 years in drug discovery, leveraging in a further £350m in third party investment over this period, aiming to attract £2 of leverage for every £1 deployed.

Horizons will also bring together 200 drug discovery experts who were previously working as independent groups, to collaborate as one in-house team. This will consolidate the expertise and network within a single organisation, allowing the development of differentiating capabilities, and the insight needed to take on challenging and high-value targets.

One aspect Horizons will focus on is the pursuit of tougher, relatively unexplored and more profound ideas that hold promise for true innovation. For example, Cancer Research UK backed the development of POLθ inhibitors, which were at the time deemed too risky by industry, resulting in the successful spin-out Artios, which is now testing these cutting-edge drugs in clinical trials.