Cancer Research UK has launched a new £18 million manufacturing facility with the production of its first product – an antibody, discovered by scientists at the Southampton University, designed to treat a range of cancers.

The new facility - crowned the Biotherapeutics Development Unit - is based at the charity’s Clare Hall site Hertfordshire, and forms part of Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office, which takes drugs from discoveries in the lab to early clinical phase trials.

The BDU will produce experimental medicine and biological research products designed to target cancer cells in a more specific way than traditional chemotherapy treatments, which kill both healthy as well as diseased tissues. These will then be assessed in early-stage clinical studies in patients with cancer across the country, the charity said.

The first product manufactured by the facility is an antibody called Chi Lob 7/4, which has been designed to “supercharge” the body’s immune system to better fight cancer. The antibody sticks to a receptor called CD40, found on the surface of both cancer and immune system cells, after which it gives a signal for the immune system to destroy any cancer cells, and is currently being tested in Phase I trials.

“Having experimental medicines readily available from our own medicine manufacturing centre will be an enormous boost to clinical trials such as this one which is testing a promising new antibody to treat people with cancer,” said Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician.

“This important new medicine manufacturing hub provides a crucial service to support our scientists, doctors and nurses – and we hope this will have a real impact in the development of new and exciting treatments to beat cancer,” added Harpal Kumar, the charity’s chief executive.