CRT and the EIF unveil £50m cancer fund

Aims to ‘plug a gap’ in UK funding of drug discovery

Cancer Research Technology (CRT), the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, and the European Investment Fund (EIF) have created a £50m investment fund to take potential cancer drugs from discovery through to Phase II clinical trials.

The aim is 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, which has launched with £25m. The partners say this may be doubled to reach the total £50m.

‘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,’ said Richard Pelly, chief executive of EIF.

‘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. The EIF is therefore delighted to be partnering with CRT and this investment now becomes the largest technology transfer operation partnered by EIF to-date. It illustrates EIF’s commitment to supporting innovation and research in Europe.’

At least two-thirds of the fund will be used to develop scientific discoveries made by Cancer Research UK scientists. This mauy 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.

The remaining projects may come from other academic groups or industry in the UK.

‘This vital investment will nurture world-class innovation in drug development to bring potential new treatments to patients as quickly as possible,’ said Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.

‘Our scientists and doctors have contributed to most of the world’s top cancer drugs, such as temozolomide, used worldwide to treat people with the most aggressive type of brain tumour. And through our research, we’ve contributed to the discovery or development of nearly 50 drugs now being tested in clinical trials. These drugs could also save many thousands of lives in the future.

‘This new CRT Pioneer Fund will enable us to build on the progress already made and provide a stepping stone to producing the cancer drugs of the future.’

The BioIndustry Association (BIA) has welcomed the launch of the fund.

‘The fund arrives at a particularly good time for life sciences in the UK following the launch last week by the Wellcome Trust of a £200m venture fund and GlaxoSmithKline’s decision to invest £500m in biopharmaceutical manufacturing in the UK,’ said Glyn Edwards, interim chief executive of the BIA.

‘These actions by charitable foundations and companies are to be applauded and provide a launch pad from which government could further stimulate private investment into medical research.’

Edwards added: ‘At the BIA, we believe that the government can become an enabler rather than a provider of investment in innovative companies by introducing Citizens Innovation Funds.’