Research in Northern Ireland has received a boost with the news of a £13 million cancer partnership between Queen’s University Belfast and Almac Discovery.

The partners have unveiled plans for a Phase I trial for ovarian cancer which they say involves “the first novel cancer drug fully developed in Northern Ireland”. Tracy Robson from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s, said the drug, known as ALM201, rather than attacking tumours directly, prevents the growth of new blood vessels in tumours, starving them of oxygen and nutrients.

She added that the drug “targets tumours by an entirely different pathway to those treatments currently approved”. Up to 60 patients are expected to be enrolled.

Plans were also laid out for a joint programme which will see 17 Almac scientists seconded to Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology. The two projects represent a total investment of £13 million, with £7 million of support offered by Invest Northern Ireland, which includes cash from the European Regional Development Fund.

Commenting on the news, Northern Ireland enterprise minister Arlene Foster said that this “significant investment in R&D will enhance collaboration between academia and industry”. She added that the deal will reinforce the province’s position as a leader in research for the health and life sciences sector.