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January 25, 2016

Three Pharmas, U.K. Universities Launch $57M Innovation Fund

  • Three pharma giants have joined with three U.K. universities to launch a £40 million ($57 million) fund intended to speed up translation of the schools’ research into new therapies.

    AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation are partnering with the technology transfer offices of Imperial College London, University College London, and the University of Cambridge to create the Apollo Therapeutics Fund.

    The partners said Apollo was formed to advance academic preclinical research to a stage where it can be either further developed by one of the industry partners through an internal bidding process or out-licensed to collaborators. The industry partners also agreed to provide R&D expertise and additional resources toward commercial evaluation and development of projects.

    Johnson & Johnson Innovation offers funding, R&D expertise, business model development, and facilities and operational support to areas of strategic importance in J&J’s pharmaceutical, diagnostic, consumer, and medical devices businesses.

    The pharma partners also each agreed to contribute £10 million ($14.3 million) over six years to the fund. An addition £3.3 million ($4.7 million) will come from each of the tech transfer offices of the universities: Imperial Innovations Group, Cambridge Enterprise, and UCL Business.

    Apollo’s investment decisions will be made through a committee consisting of representatives from all six partners. The Apollo Therapeutics Investment Committee will be chaired by Ian Tomlinson, Ph.D., a former svp of worldwide business development and biopharmaceuticals R&D for GSK and the founder and CSO of Domantis.

    “Apollo provides an additional source of early stage funding that will allow more therapeutics projects within the three universities to realize their full potential,” Dr. Tomlinson said in a statement. “The active participation of the industry partners will also mean that projects will be shaped at a very early stage to optimize their suitability for further development.”

    Apollo’s investment committee will be advised by an independent Drug Discovery Team of ex-industry scientists who will be employed by Apollo to work with the universities and their tech transfer officer to identify and shape projects to bring forward for development.

    For successful projects, the originating university and its tech transfer office will receive an unspecified percentage of future commercial revenues or out-licensing fees, with the remainder being divided among all Apollo partners.

    The fund said all therapy areas and modalities, including small molecules, peptides, proteins, antibodies, and cell and gene therapies will be considered for advancement.

    Apollo will be based at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, a joint venture between GSK, the Wellcome Trust, the U.K. Department for Business Innovation and Skills, and science/tech advancement agency Innovate UK.

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