UK groups Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, have linked arms with Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen Biotech in a deal to discover a new drug for the blood cancer multiple myeloma.

The alliance has been set up to identify molecules and develop them into experimental therapies that block a key protein involved in a signalling pathway - known as the unfolded protein response or UPR pathway - which researchers believe plays a role in preventing cell death, thereby allowing damaged cells to multiply.

The deal is structured so that teams at the ICR will work alongside researchers at Janssen, with Cancer Research UK and Janssen together funding up to 25 scientists, and the drugmaker providing some extra cash to support the research at the Institute.

Janssen will pay future milestones and royalties on any drugs that progress through development and make it to market, and will also lead on the clinical development of any potential drugs.

Explaining the rationale behind the move, Professor Paul Workman, director of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit and deputy chief executive of the ICR, noted that multiple myeloma patients "urgently need new treatments and we are confident this exciting collaboration gives us a good chance of delivering for them".

"The drug discovery and biology expertise provided by Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at the ICR, and Janssen’s extensive experience of oncology drug development, is an exciting combination which we hope will identify potential new drugs to hit this promising target," added Laura Fletcher, Cancer Research Technology’s associate director of business development.