A new multi-project collaboration and licensing deal between The Institute of Cancer Research, London – an independent research institute and a college of the University of London – science and technology company Merck, and charity Cancer Research UK is set to discover and develop new cancer drugs.

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is the most successful higher education institution in the UK at earning invention income from its research, with intellectual property income of more than £64 million for the academic year 2015/16.

The ICR’s business engagement strategy – led by its sector-leading Enterprise Unit – is centred on bringing the benefits of its discoveries to patients, by partnering strategically with the organisations most likely to take new treatments into the clinic as quickly as possible.

“Teaming up with the ICR on cuttingedge drug discovery provides us with enhanced capability to rapidly progress our collaborative projects into clinical development.” Andree Blaukat, Merck Healthcare Senior Vice President and Head of TIP Oncology

The new agreement is the culmination of a prior sequence of successful collaborations between the partners and represents a deeper, more strategic partnership based on shared principles and objectives. These earlier projects showed that scientists at the ICR and Merck were able to form a productive and efficient project team, demonstrating a willingness to share information, good communication and shared high quality expertise and interests. The projects demonstrated the mutual benefit in agreeing an overarching strategic collaboration.

This new collaboration aims to progress the discovery and development of potential cancer drugs, from target discovery to preclinical drug candidate nomination, as well as to develop biomarkers for target engagement and patient selection.

Director of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR, Professor Rajesh Chopra, explains “We hope that through the diverse projects in this collaboration, we can identify molecules that are effective against a number of different tumour types. Together we can create innovative new treatments for the benefit of patients.”

Under the terms of the partnership, which will bring together three independent research programmes, Merck has worldwide rights to take molecules discovered through the collaboration into clinical development. Cancer Research UK and the ICR will receive milestone payments based on research and development achievements, regulatory and sales goals, and royalty payments on net sales of future products discovered or developed under the agreement. Any payments made to Cancer Research UK and the ICR will be invested into future lifesaving research.

The ICR passionately believes in the importance of innovation, designing and developing novel techniques and cancer treatments that work in completely new ways. It is also a strong proponent for knowledge exchange between universities, companies and the public to maximise economic and societal benefit.


This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.