Cancer Research Horizons on being a ‘facilitator’ and preventing drugs getting stuck in ‘No Man’s Land’

By Isabel Cameron

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags cancer research Cancer research uk Oncology Cancer Research

Launching in April last year, Cancer Research Horizons (CRH) describes itself as the “meeting point” between academia and industry, attempting to prevent drug discoveries from entering the ‘valley of death’ and stalling in their progress.

The organisation brings Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) six drug discovery sites under one umbrella, allowing the company to “scale up” and making sure the centers are not “stepping on each other’s toes,” CRH associate director of business development George Tzircotis tells BioPharma-Reporter.

“It is easier to run large drug discovery programs if you have more people working together and there are efficiencies in doing that by combining all of these groups, rather than having them run independently,” he said at Bio International 2023.

“The key thing is making sure the funding that our donors generously provide to CRUK goes the furthest way possible.”

One of CRH’s big blockbusters is a prostate cancer drug called abiraterone, which ended up with Johnson & Johnson, despite a “complicated commercialization process”.

However, while Tzircotis acknowledges the importance of highlighting “key successes” he says much of CRH’s work involves acting as the “middleman or facilitator”.

“It’s key to highlight our big visible successes, as they are obvious signs that we are getting new drugs to patients, but we fund a really big chunk of oncology research in the UK and that encompasses lots of networks and practices,” he adds.

This community enables CRH to speak with scientists and understand their research, before identifying people of interest and “attracting the right partner to give a treatment the best chance of success”.

“Our network can help prevent the ‘valley of death’ which happens when someone has really interesting research, funded by the government or a medical research charity like CRUK, but struggles to get it into the hands of a biotech or pharma company – which is not that straightforward,” Tzircotis says.

“You have to have a lot of expertise in protecting the intellectual property for that drug and developing it to a point where it’s interesting enough and de-risked enough for a biotech or pharma to take the leap and do the extensive clinical development, which comes later on”.

“We have a variety of capabilities to progress things, make sure we can protect an IP and give it the best chance of making an impact – to ensure critical drug discovery doesn’t get stuck in this strange no man’s land.”

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