New UK Joint Venture Bridges Gap between Top Universities and Big Pharmas

27/01/2016 - 3 minutes

AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and the 3 world-leading universities (Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Cambridge) have joined forces  to found the ‘Apollo’ Bridge.

stevenage_catalyst_apolo_gsk_biotech_ucl_imperialThis pioneering new joint venture, the Apollo Therapeutics Fund, will support the translation of ground-breaking academic science from within these universities into innovative new medicines for a broad range of diseases.

Each of the three industry partner companies (AstraZeneca, Glaxo Group and J&J Innovation) will contribute £10M (€13.15M) over 6 years to the venture.

The technology transfer offices (TTOs) of the three university partners – Imperial Innovations, Cambridge Enterprise and UCL Business  – will each contribute a further £3.3M (€4.34M).

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The university partners are also located along the M11 Cambridge-London ‘Bioscience Corridor’ which includes the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (where Apollo is to be based) and Cell Therapy Catapult.

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Apollo will be advised by an independent Drug Discovery Team (DDT) of ex-industry scientists, who will also be employed by Apollo, to identify and shape projects to bring forward for development. These could include small molecules, peptides, proteins, antibodies, and even Cell and Gene therapies for a range of disease areas.

For selected projects, Apollo will provide translational funding on a project-by-project basis through to agreed pre-clinical milestones (e.g. lead optimisation, candidate selection, CTA submission) for around 6-8 years (depending on the project taken up).

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The future location of the Apollo Therapeutics Fund in Stevenage, North of London (Source: Stevenage Biosciences Catalyst)

In some cases, a complete project will be developed with funding of €4M, whilst others may require some key experiments to be performed first, with funding up to £150K (€197K). This could really help researchers get their work out there; a significant barrier to cross in academia for Drug Discovery.

The Apollo Therapeutics Fund should benefit the UK economy by increasing the potential for academic research to be translated into new medicines for patients the world over.

In return, the Apollo Therapeutics Fund will receive 50% of all future commercial revenues received, while the originating university and TTO will collectively receive the other 50% in return for providing the initial project.

This is the same level of revenue share taken by the Wellcome Trust for Seeding Drug Discovery awards and by Cancer Research UK technology for CRUK funded projects.

When only around 10% of therapies entering clinical trials actually reach patients as medicines, this kind of joint venture (with 3 of the top 10 world’s universities) could truly make a difference to the Drug discovery industry.

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