Consortium of UK Universities and global pharma companies launch £40m innovation fund

Apollo Therapeutics Fund will support translation of academic science into medicines for a broad range of diseases

Three global pharmaceutical firms and the technology transfer businesses of three UK universities have joined forces to create the £40m Apollo Therapeutics Fund.

AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Cambridge have linked up to form Apollo, a new joint venture that will support the translation of ground-breaking academic science from within the universities into innovative new medicines for a broad range of diseases.

Each of the three pharma firms will contribute £10m over six years to the venture. The technology transfer offices (TTOs) of the three university partners will each contribute a further £3.3m.

Apollo aims to advance academic preclinical research from these universities to a stage at which it can either be taken forward by one of the industry partners following an internal bidding process or be out-licensed. The three pharma firms will also provide R&D expertise and additional resources to assist with the commercial evaluation and development of projects.

By combining funding for promising early-stage therapeutics from leading UK universities with a breadth of industry expertise, Apollo aims to share the risk and accelerate the development of important new treatments, while also reducing the cost.

Dr Ian Tomlinson, former Senior Vice President, Worldwide Business Development and Biopharmaceuticals R&D, for GSK and founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Domantis, has been appointed Chairman of the Apollo Therapeutics Investment Committee (AIC). Comprising representatives from the six partners, the AIC will make all investment decisions.

The AIC will be advised by an independent Drug Discovery Team (DDT) of ex-industry scientists who will be employed by Apollo to work with the universities and their TTOs to identify and shape projects to bring forward for development. All therapy areas and modalities, including small molecules, peptides, proteins, antibodies, cell and gene therapies will be considered.

Apollo will be based at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, joining 49 other tenants on the open innovation campus.

Apollo provides an additional source of early stage funding that will allow more therapeutics projects within the three universities to realise their full potential

Once funded, projects will be progressed by the DDT alongside the university investigators, with other external resources and also in-kind resources from the industry partners as appropriate. For successful projects, the originating university and TTO will receive a percentage of future commercial revenues or out-licensing fees and the remainder will be divided amongst all the Apollo partners.

Tomlinson said: 'This is the first time that three global pharmaceutical companies and the TTOs of three of the world’s top ten universities have come together to form a joint enterprise of this nature, making the Apollo Therapeutics Fund a truly innovative venture.

'Apollo provides an additional source of early stage funding that will allow more therapeutics projects within the three universities to realise their full potential. The active participation of the industry partners will also mean that projects will be shaped at a very early stage to optimise their suitability for further development.'

Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit, added: 'This partnership aligns with our commitment to being an integral part of the research community in the UK and takes a highly innovative approach to sharing both the risks and the rewards of applied research.'

GSK's Dr Steve Martin, Vice President Biopharm Discovery, said: 'The Apollo Therapeutics Fund is a great example of this collaborative approach to research. By fusing the skills and resources of academic and industry scientists during the early stages of research, I believe we’ll dramatically increase our ability to identify and nurture outstanding academic research, which can turn innovative science into breakthrough treatments.'

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