Some of the biggest names in UK cancer research and clinical excellence and four major global pharmaceutical and healthcare companies are combining forces to help accelerate the translation of emerging cancer research in the UK into patient benefits.
The Oncology Development Programme at Alderley Park is being led by Bruntwood SciTech, a partnership between Bruntwood and Legal & General, and funded by Innovate UK and Cancer Research UK, as part of Cancer Research UK’s Entrepreneurial Programmes Initiative aimed to develop and nurture an entrepreneurial culture amongst cancer researchers in the UK.
Its goal is to bring forward commercially viable ideas much more quickly, ready to take on new funding or collaborators in order to significantly increase their likelihood of commercial success. This approach will help successful innovations progress quickly into de-risked, investable propositions ready to meet patients’ needs.
A collaboration of AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Medicines Discovery Catapult and the Manchester Cancer Research Centre will support researchers and start-ups aiming to develop their early-stage innovations. As delivery partner for the programme, Medicines Discovery Catapult, a national hub for research and development in drug discovery, will work closely with the selected participating researchers and start-ups, to help them develop fully validated, timed, costed, project plans with delivery partners in place, vastly improving their likelihood of attracting future investment.
The creation of such a broad collaboration focused solely in oncology is different from the traditional accelerator programme model which typically covers multiple therapeutic areas and is supported by one or two specialists from within a particular field. The nine-month Oncology Development Programme will ultimately provide potential investors with detailed plans on how each company will deliver key data and value milestones during the following two to three years.
Dr Kath Mackay, managing director, Bruntwood SciTech – Alderley Park, said: “This is a really exciting and unique project that will help turn some of the most promising ideas in cancer research today into investable projects that will improve the way that cancer patients are diagnosed and treated during the course of their disease.
“It’s no secret that while the life sciences sector and indeed the wider world has understandably been focused on the pandemic, funding and research into beating cancer has suffered. Our new programme couldn’t be launching at a more critical time and, as with the race to find a Covid-19 vaccine, it signals a major collaborative effort involving global leaders.
“By leveraging the best-in-class infrastructure and expertise at Alderley Park and the wider Bruntwood SciTech network, we can help the participants stay hands-on, doing what they do best, rather than having to down tools and focus on running a business.
“Bruntwood SciTech’s national network of innovation districts includes the leading precision medicine and health innovation campus Citylabs located at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust’s Oxford Road hub and the newly announced Birmingham Health Innovation Campus. The Oncology Development Programme’s participants will have the opportunity to access the deep pool of talent and expertise from right across the UK.”
Tony Hickson, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Business Officer, said: “We’re delighted to see this programme come to fruition as part of our Entrepreneurial Programmes Initiative. At the end of the day, we want to bring new, potentially lifesaving treatments to patients. Our initiative aims to drive entrepreneurship among cancer researchers and encourage innovation at the interface of academia and industry that can help bring ideas from bench to bedside.
“The infrastructure and expertise that Alderley Park and the pharma collaborators bring would put any researchers that go through the programme in a fantastic position to translate their research. I look forward to following the progress of the successful applicants.”
Richard Hebdon, Head of Health & Medicine, Innovate UK added: “Now more than ever, the UK has to focus on cancer research and innovation. Understandable attention has been on Covid-19, yet we must unleash our capacity for innovation in oncology. This unique and exciting collaboration with Cancer Research UK and Alderley Park will boost the commercialisation potential of UK oncology start-ups. The programme will receive great support from scientific and business experts from the Manchester Cancer Knowledge Quarter, Medicines Discovery Catapult, key investors and the pharma industry. This will allow start-ups to accelerate their emerging technologies towards commercialisation whilst delivering significant health benefits for cancer patients.”
Participants that progress through the programme will receive up to £60,000 of grant funding to support the development of their business plans, including provision for salary replacement. They will also receive support to develop an optional ‘virtual R&D’ business model, provided by the Medicines Discovery Catapult, without the need to establish a research laboratory.
A series of virtual workshops and Q&A sessions to support applications to the Oncology Development Programme will be held throughout November and December.