On 13th June 2011, CRT announced the formation of BliNK Therapeutics. Formed jointly with Kurma Life Sciences Partners, BliNK will develop the novel platform to generate therapeutic and diagnostic monoclonal antibodies towards clinically relevant targets. The technology is based on research carried out by the founding scientists Dr Facundo Batista, at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute in collaboration with Professor Vincenzo Cerundolo at the University of Oxford.
The platform technology provides a new way of activating the immune system’s B cells to produce antibodies in response to a specific antigen. Antigens are molecules that cause an immune response and can come from parasites, viruses, bacteria or even cancerous tumour cells, while B cells are the antibody-making factories in the immune system.
Kurma has committed up to £1.1m as seed financing, the investment to start-up the company, and up to £6.6m in further financing for BliNK Therapeutics.
CRT has long since recognised spin-out formation as an attractive mechanism for increasing the effectiveness and reach of R&D activities. Our first spin-out, Cyclacel, founded by Sir David Lane a recognized leader in the field of tumor suppressor biology, who discovered the p53 protein, was formed in 1996. Since then, we have been involved in the set up of many more spin-outs, BliNK Therapeutics being our 24th.
Looking back over our successes
At the end of 2005 AstraZeneca acquired KuDOS Pharmaceuticals for £121m. CRT established the company together with Prof. Steve Jackson and the University of Cambridge in 1997 to progress innovative therapies relating to DNA repair. The success of KuDOS in raising capital and focused drug development represents a model example of technology transfer.
The privately-owned, UK Company, PIramed was acquired by Roche in April 2008. PIramed was incorporated jointly by Cancer Research Technology (CRT), the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) and the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR) to advance development of PI3 Kinase (PI3K) inhibitors. The PI3K discovery programme originated as a tri-partite collaboration between scientists from three major cancer research institutes with UK operations (Professor Mike Waterfield of Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Professor Peter Parker of Cancer Research UK and Professor Paul Workman of the Institute of Cancer Research) and Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical Company (now Astellas Pharma Inc.). Upon conclusion of the collaboration, the intellectual property was acquired jointly by CRT, LICR and ICR and formed the basis of PIramed.
The Roche/PIramed deal again demonstrates collaborative effort between founding scientists, technology transfer offices and the venture funding community towards ensuring development of promising cancer therapies.
Over the years, a number of our spin-outs have also raised finance to fund further preclinical and clinical drug development programmes. In 2006 Chroma Therapeutics raised over £30m in a Series C funding round and Spear Therapeutics raised £4.6m in their first funding initiative.
Spin-outs are just one of the ways we optimise cancer patient benefit through working together with industry and academia.