Belfast Telegraph

Almac and Queen's sign multi-million US deals in fight against cancer

By Margaret Canning

Almac Discovery, which develops treatments for cancer, has reached a $14.5m deal with a US firm to develop new drug molecules to fight the disease.

It's one of two multi-million pound deals announced in life sciences between Northern Ireland and the US this week.

The Craigavon­­­-based company has signed a major agreement with Genentech in California, with the US firm licensing and developing the new class of drug molecules, discovered by Almac.

The new class of drug molecules blocks the activity of a cancer pathway believed to play a key role in tumour development.

But despite being the focus of biotech and pharma firms for over a decade, identifying the right molecules had been difficult until Almac Discovery's recent breakthrough.

The firm will now receive an upfront payment of $14.5m (£9.31m approx) and could receive up to $349m (£224m approx) in milestone payments - as well as tiered royalties on potential commercial sales.

Almac Discovery president Stephen Barr said: "We are delighted to enter into this partnership with Genentech, a like-minded research driven organisation.

"Genentech is an undoubted leader in oncology development and this, coupled with their in-depth knowledge... is the perfect complement for us. We feel confident that Genentech is the best partner to expedite the translation of our medicinal chemistry and biology efforts into the clinic."

Meanwhile, another California firm, CV6 Therapeutics, is joining with Queen's University's cancer research and cell biology centre for a major research and development project.

The project, which aims to develop a new drug with the potential to make chemotherapy more effective, represents a total investment of £5.5m in research and development.

Invest NI has offered assistance of £2.5m towards the collaboration which includes part funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

It will promote 10 new research jobs with above-average salaries.

Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said: "This project not only has the potential to result in advancements in cancer treatment worldwide but will deliver significant supply chain economic benefits to Northern Ireland of £1.85m.

"Dr Robert Ladner CEO of CV6 and a world leading expert on mechanisms of drug resistance will relocate to Northern Ireland with his senior team to lead this project. This is a very positive announcement for the life sciences sector in Northern Ireland and is a further endorsement of Northern Ireland's strengths in precision medicine and oncology research."

Dr Robert Ladner, CV6 chief said: "The R&D we will undertake during this project has the potential to significantly improve chemotherapy treatments in a wide range of cancers by overcoming key resistance pathways associated with these cornerstone drugs and in turn deliver significant economic benefits and advancements in cancer treatments worldwide."

Belfast Telegraph