Translational Research Office


Apollo Therapeutics Fund

• £40 million fund
• Collaboration between UCL, Imperial and Cambridge along with GSK, AZ and J&J
• Therapeutics only, all modalites
• Funding for pre-clinical assets £2-£3 million/project

The Fund
Project Apollo is a unique collaboration between three pharmaceutical companies (GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Janssen Pharmaceuticals) and three world-leading Universities (UCL, Cambridge and Imperial College), via their respective Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) in our case UCLB, which seeks to provide translational research funding for biomedical projects with therapeutic potential emanating from academic laboratories within the Universities and their associated research hospitals. 

These funds will be applied to translating pre-clinical projects out of University labs through IND ready assets. Successful projects will be licensed to industry by their TT (UCLB). The industry partners in Project Apollo having preferential right of negotiation,this is for a limited duration and all transactions will be on full commercial terms. A dedicated drug discovery team will in collaboration with an academic PI will plan and run the Apollo projects. This team will be employed by Apollo. Its members will be drawn from industry, will be independent of the Universities and pharmaceutical partners, and will run the projects to established industry standards. 

The team will liaise closely with the University academics and the TTO’s. The team will formally be based at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (offices only, no labs, the DDT will not carry out experiments itself) but will travel to the Universities to meet potential Apollo applicants. The Apollo pharmaceutical partners will actively participate in projects through the provision of access to in-house expertise and know-how, as well as other resources where appropriate. Apollo will fund projects from the three Universities on a competitive basis. All commercial revenues will be shared 50:50 between the University and Apollo.

Apollo Therapeutics’ Competitive Advantage
The role of the DDT will be to provide experienced drug discovery expertise alongside the academic research team to ensure that the mission-critical tough questions are asked at an industry-standard level and to ensure that projects are focussed on critical path activities. There is no set call for projects, projects will be considered every 2 months and decisions will be quick. The desired outcome is to generate commercially attractive assets with ready uptake from one of the three pharma partners involved in Apollo. If there is not interest from any of the 3 pharma partners at the end of the project the TTO is able to speak to any other commercial partner it wishes.

Apollo will provide translational funding on a project-by-project basis through to a key pre-clinical milestone (e.g. lead optimization, candidate selection). Apollo is focussed on therapeutics without bias by therapeutic area or modality (e.g. small molecules, peptides, proteins, antibodies, gene and cell therapy). In order for a project to be awarded funding at least two of the three Pharma companies must approve it.  We anticipate that approximately 20 projects will funded by Apollo during an investment period of 6-8 years. With a focus on doing killer experiments the attrition rate is likely to be high. There will be no hard limit on the amount of investment per asset. We expect that many projects will be killed off after only a small amount of investment has been made into them. A smaller number of viable projects are likely to progress further, and could require more significant sums to be invested in them (e.g. up to £3.5m). There is the opportunity to access up to £150k to address a critical question prior. to moving to a full application to Apollo.

Project Criteria

Project Apollo will have an Investment Committee (AIC) comprising one representative from each TTOs, each pharmaceutical partner and an independent Chairman drawn from industry. The Chairman is initially Ian Tomlinson (former SVP Worldwide Business Development and BioPharmaceutical R&D for GSK, and founder/CSO of Domantis). The Investment Committee will agree project plans, investment amounts, and the terms of an out-licensing deal, or spin-out, for any asset that receives Project Apollo funding. A Scientific Advisory Board will be created from leading figures within the three Universities and the pharmaceutical partners.

This will serve in an advisory capacity. Current members include: Prof Sir Mark Pepys, Prof Sir Stephen Bloom, Prof Jim Huntingdon, Prof Patrick Vallance, Dr Bill Hait and Dr Mene Pangalos. Apollo will assemble a small core drug discovery team with industry expertise to run projects. While this team will be based at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, it will be expected to spend significant time in London and Cambridge. A Chief Executive Officer will have responsibility for managing the drug discovery team, its activities to deliver the Apollo projects, and for reporting to the Investment Committee. 

The drug discovery team will be responsible for: 
• Working with each of the TTOs to develop a pipeline of opportunities for Apollo. 
• Developing project investment proposals for review by the Investment Committee.
• Leveraging connections into the Apollo pharmaceutical partners to gain insight and access additional resources. 
• Running and management of invested Apollo projects.

The unique structure of Project Apollo offers a stimulating and attractive challenge for all stakeholders (academic, drug discovery team, TTO, pharmaceutical R&D) across a wide range of projects.

For additional information please contact Dr Rick Fagan, Director BioPharm, UCL Business; r.fagan@uclb.com or Dr Judy Hayler, UCL Translational Research Office; j.hayler@ucl.ac.uk.