Cancer Research UK has unveiled an interesting new initiative that aims to borrow shelved anti-cancer drugs from some of the key players in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology field to take them through clinical development.

The principle behind the charity’s new Clinical Development Partnerships is to boost the number of successful new cancer therapies by taking promising but de-prioritised candidates from the industry and developing them – at no cost to the drug’s owner - for the market.

“There are literally hundreds of preclinical molecules sitting on the shelf, and many of these are anti-cancer drugs,” Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research Technology and Chief Operating Officer of Cancer Research UK, told journalists at a launch meeting in London yesterday, highlighting the project’s potential.

According to Kumar, the initiative could help CR UK double its drug development over the next five years, but he stressed: “This is not about making money. This is about making more drugs for cancer patients – that is the fundamental drive.”

And this drive certainly comes with a price. As Sally Burtles, CR UK’s Director of Drug Development, told PharmaTimes World News, the charity is estimating that it will need to allocate funds – which stem from public donations - of around £2 million every year to fuel the project, although she added that it is difficult to estimate the amount of clinical trial activity that will be undertaken under the initiative.

The charity has designed a unique business model for CDP: the commercial entity retains the rights to its drug as well as a marketing option if trials are successful, while Cancer Research UK will receive a share of any revenues in return. The fact that companies will be keeping hold of their intellectual property rights should help eradicate any reservations about lending their candidates to the charity for development.

CR UK has already approached a number of companies about getting access to their portfolios, and that the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far, Kumar said. The charity is currently reviewing three specific opportunities and, although he declined to disclose any further details at this time, he said that the first drug for development will be selected in the next 12 months.

The initiative is certainly getting a positive reception from other sides of the industry too. Dr Richard Tiner, Medical Director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, told PharmaTimes World News: “It’s a win win win situation. A win for patients, who will benefit from new therapies, a win for Cancer Research UK, by demonstrating their importance as a drug development organisation within cancer, and a win for the pharmaceutical industry, which will see more of its molecules in development.”