Pharmacy News Publication

UCL Technology Fund invests £1m in School of Pharmacy project to treat pancreatic cancer

13 December 2016


Cancer cells

The UCL Technology Fund (UCLTF), which provides funding and support for UCL’s most transformative innovations, has approved an investment of up to £1m in Professor Stephen Neidle’s ‘G-Quadruplex’ Targeting project, which has the potential to treat pancreatic and other cancers.

Pancreatic cancer is devastating and almost always refractory to treatment, resulting in rapid and near-invariably fatal disease progression, usually within a few months of diagnosis. This outlook has not changed in over 40 years despite significant advances in the understanding of disease mechanisms, and the availability of many new cancer therapies. It represents one of the most significant unmet needs in oncology, and indeed in medicine in general.

Professor Neidle has long been a pioneer in the rational design of drugs to selectively switch off the functioning of cancer-related genes. His group has developed a new type of drug that targets the small ‘islands’ of unusual DNA structure (called ‘quadruplexes’) that exist in a number of cancer-related genes. These drugs stabilise the quadruplexes, reducing cancer-gene expression, as well as inducing cell-death mechanisms in cancer cells. Professor Neidle and his team have shown that these drugs can have significant anti-cancer effects in experimental models of pancreatic cancer.

Support for the G-Quadruplex Targeting project has been enabled by UCLTF’s innovative investment model. In addition to providing funding and commercial support for traditional university spinout companies, UCLTF also provides investment finance for translational projects which have significant commercial potential, by which funding is provided directly to academic labs such as Professor Neidle’s team in the UCL School of Pharmacy.

This approach enables university research groups to de-risk technological development of their projects. This increases the probability of achieving more substantive licensing outcomes, by efficiently supporting projects through to a much later stage. UCLTF support for the G-Quadruplex Targeting project is intended to help rapidly bring this novel cancer therapy closer to the point where human clinical trials can be contemplated. The project is being carried out in close collaboration with the UCL Drug Discovery Group, led by Dr Richard Angell.

UCL School of Pharmacy
The UCL School of Pharmacy is one of the most highly rated pharmacy schools (8th in the QS rankings for pharmacy and pharmacology 2015/2016) and has a long tradition of expert contribution to healthcare practice and policy. The School is located within the Faculty of Life Sciences, one of four Faculties that comprise the School of Life and Medical Sciences (SLMS - see: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slms/). The School enjoys a lively and stimulating academic environment in which teachers, researchers, professionals and students interact. All are connected by an interest in medicines - how they work, how they are made and how they are used by people to prevent and treat disease. Research focuses on advancing and understanding medicines and health care, and in creating new medicines. Its performance in the Research Excellence Framework 2014 marks UCL School of Pharmacy as one of the most important centres for pharmacy and drug discovery research in UK education.

About the UCL Technology Fund

The UCL Technology Fund is dedicated to investing in intellectual property commercialisation opportunities arising from UCL’s world-class research base, focusing in particular on the physical and life sciences. The Fund supports UCL in achieving the full potential of innovations that have prospects for outstanding societal and market impact, right through the development journey from initial proof of concept to practical commercial application. The Fund is managed by Albion Ventures, one of the largest independent venture capital investors in the UK, in collaboration with UCL Business. For further information please visit: www.ucltf.co.uk

About UCL Business PLC

UCL Business PLC (UCLB) is a leading technology commericalisation company that supports the research and innovations arising from UCL, one of the UK’s top research-led universities. UCLB has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations from UCL academics. UCLB has a strong track record in commercialising medical technologies and provides technology transfer services to UCL’s associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from laboratory to market. For further information, please visit: www.uclb.com  and Twitter @UCL_Business

About Albion Ventures LLP

Albion Ventures LLP is a leading venture capital investor which has been managing investments in small unquoted UK companies since 1996. Albion manages or provides management services in respect of over £400 million. In addition to six Albion VCTs, it manages the UCL Technology Fund and provides management services to Albion Community Power PLC and Albion Care Communities. For further information please visit www.albion-ventures.co.uk