New £50m fund to support UK cancer drug development

 A new £50m investment fund aims to help UK companies bridge the translation gap between cancer drug discovery and early-stage product development.

The CRT Pioneer Fund, with equal contributions from Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and the European Investment Fund (EIF), aims to take cancer drug candidates from discovery through to phase II clinical trials.

The new fund was welcomed by the Bioindustry Association (BIA), the trade association for the UK bioscience sector, who said it came at “a particularly good time for life sciences in the UK”.

The fund’s starting capital of £25m will be doubled by the founders and/or potentially other investors.

CRT is the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, whose widespread research networks will provide projects for the investment of at least two-thirds of the new fund, with the rest coming from other academic groups or industry.

David Willetts (pictured), Minister for Universities and Science, said: “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 from Cancer Research Technology and the European Investment Fund will complement this work extremely well.”

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

“This important investment means we can take forward the most innovative approaches using our in-house drug discovery and development capabilities, to progress promising treatments from the lab all the way to clinical trials, translating our world-class scientific research into new treatments more quickly.”

Richard Pelly, EIF Chief Executive, noted: “This investment targets a stage of the investment spectrum often neglected by the market. The CRT Pioneer Fund will primarily follow a licensing model rather than creating companies.”

Glyn Edwards, BIA Interim Chief Executive, commented: “The launch of the CRT Pioneer Fund will provide another financing option for companies and academics in the UK looking to translate their cancer drug discoveries into clinical development.

“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 £200 million venture fund and GlaxoSmithKline’s decision to invest £500 million in biopharmaceutical manufacturing in the UK.”