UK drug Discovery companies // Drug Repurposing

UK drug Discovery companies

Developing new drugs is tough. But as illustrated by the results of an early stage trial of a new vaccine for brain tumours, our Clinical Development Partnership (CDP) scheme is playing a big part in developing treatments that may have never got off the ground otherwise.

In this guest post, Dr Victoria John, head of Cancer Research UK’s CDP explores what makes the programme tick, and how the scheme is bringing treatments closer to the patients who need them.

It can take a long time and a lot of hard work to go from an idea in a laboratory to a new cancer drug .

Lab research is uncovering the mechanisms that drive cancer and identifying the chinks in its armour. But figuring out how to exploit those weaknesses – in a way that can actually tackle the disease – is a tough job.

And once you have a solution, it can be even tougher to determine whether it is safe to give to people, what the correct dose would be, and whether it’s effective compared to current treatments.

Taking what could be a promising new drug all the way from the lab bench to a fully approved treatment can be a massive investment for any organisation – in fact the average cost of bringing a new drug to market is to be over three quarters of a billion pounds. And it’s particularly risky when a drug is first being trialled in patients.

Dr Victoria John, head of Cancer Research UK’s CDPThis causes a bottleneck in drug development, where promising treatments can end up languishing on the shelf as the cost of their journey through trials becomes prohibitive. This is where we’ve stepped in.

From shelf to patient

What makes our DDO so unique is that they have the facilities to manufacture and supply potential new treatments, and can partner with both academic institutes and pharmaceutical companies to take drugs through early clinical trials.

But that’s not all.

Under the CDP model, the charity takes on the risk that may be too much for pharmaceutical companies, paying for and running early phase trials through the DDO.

It works like this: the pharmaceutical company grants Cancer Research UK a license to pick up that potential treatment and run the clinical trial – allowing the company to choose to further develop and market the drug if the results of the trials look good.

If the drug is approved (and it’s a big ‘if’) then – reflecting our early work – Cancer Research UK receives royalty payments, which we put straight back into further research.

Thanks to our network of experimental cancer medicine centres (ECMCs) we have the tools, expertise and cancer specialists needed to run a clinical study; it’s far easier for the DDO to conduct these trials with our existing infrastructure than it is for a drug company to build it from scratch.

So far, nine different treatments have from six different pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Two of these drugs have now successfully reached the end of their trial.

The pharmaceutical company who developed the drug, immatics, has agreed to take the drug back into development, something that would not have been possible had the early trials not been managed by us. This is fantastic news.


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