$1.3B Keytruda windfall will be used to accelerate translational drug R&D in the UK
Translational research in the UK is getting a major boost.
The nonprofit LifeArc has struck a deal to sell a large block of its Keytruda royalties to a pension firm for $1.3 billion it will now use to support scientists at work developing new drugs and devices. The rich UK R&D scene has been a fertile ground for early-stage work. And this windfall of blockbuster cash will now bolster LifeArc’s work in the field.
Academic researchers, in particular, were paying close attention.
“This level of funding will come as a huge surprise to researchers and, more than that, it will really boost morale,” University College London investigator Robin Ali told the Financial Times.
In addition to backing academics, LifeArc — which has a marquee in-house group working on antibody engineering — has also occasionally backed promising UK biotechs like SpringWorks Therapeutics. And more startup support is likely also in the works. A few weeks ago LifeArc joined hands with Cancer Research UK and Ono Pharmaceutical to launch a new effort focused on finding new targets for immuno-oncology.
The research charity was born just two years ago out of the Medical Research Council’s commercialization arm, which cashed in $150 million of its Keytruda royalties to get things started. Scientists at MRC Technology helped do the humanization work on Merck’s antibody, which was transformed into a huge success as the leading PD-1/PD-L1 generates billions of cash from annual sales.
LifeArc is one of many examples of the surging UK biotech scene, which has been helped by the growing level of financial support available to back new developers. Long recognized as one of the world’s top academic arenas in the industry, new companies in the UK have been coming along to help create a thriving local hub.
“This agreement with CPPIB allows us to increase our support for new approaches and collaborations and bolster access to our expertise and resources,” noted LifeArc CEO Melanie Lee.