£50m investment to develop lung cancer drugs

21 Nov 2014

The Cancer Research Technology Pioneer Fund (CPF) today (Friday) has announced a collaboration with the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute Drug Discovery Unit, at The University of Manchester, to develop a promising class of drugs called RET inhibitors to treat cancer.

Cancer Research Technology (CRT), Cancer Research UK’s commercial arm, and the European Investment Fund (EIF) launched the £50M CPF in 2012 to bridge the UK funding gap between cancer drug discovery and early drug development. Sixth Element Capital was appointed to manage the fund.

The investment is the fourth made by the CPF. It will build on research by scientists at Cancer Research UK’s Manchester Institute, enabling them to accelerate the development of RET inhibitors and fund early clinical trials of potential drugs developed through the collaboration.

The RET gene plays a critical role in the development of medullary thyroid cancer. And up to two percent of non-small cell lung adenocarcinomas – originating in the mucus-secreting cells lining the airways – have RET mutations. The goal of the project is to discover novel compounds that will specifically focus on the RET gene in a targeted population of patients. 

Ian Miscampbell, managing partner of Sixth Element Capital, said: “We’re delighted to announce the fourth project to be funded by the CRT Pioneer Fund at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute and to be collaborating with their world-class team. Their expertise in cancer drug discovery and in the genetics of non small cell lung cancer makes this a very exciting investment for CPF.  

“This investment will pave the way for potential new cancer drugs to be taken into Phase I clinical trials. If the first studies are successful we will seek industry partners to further develop and commercialise these drugs.”

Dr Donald Ogilvie, head of drug discovery at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at the University of Manchester, said: “We’re extremely pleased  to work with the CRT Pioneer Fund to help accelerate progress on the exciting RET inhibitors discovered by Cancer Research UK scientists at our Institute. Lung cancer remains a significant clinical challenge.  As part of the Cancer Research UK Centre of Excellence on Lung Cancer, we are determined to deliver new treatments into the clinic for this disease and this programme offers the potential to improve the outlook for cancer patients.”

Dr Keith Blundy, chief executive of Cancer Research Technology, said: “It’s fantastic news that CRT’s Pioneer Fund will help accelerate this important research from the lab to a stage where it could potentially benefit patients. It’s absolutely essential that we take steps to bridge the innovation gap in UK drug discovery, so that patients can quickly access the promising new drugs being developed in Cancer Research UK labs and elsewhere around the world.”

Notes for editors

For media enquiries contact Ailsa Stevens in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300.