GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have linked with Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Cambridge to establish a new £40 million fund supporting early drug research.

The Apollo Therapeutics Fund has been set up to improve the speed and potential of university research being translated into novel medicines, and also give the pharma groups access to a new pot of potential drug candidates.

Each company will contribute £10 million to the Fund over six years, as well as R&D expertise and additional resources to assist with the commercial evaluation and development of projects, while the technology transfer offices of the Universities will add £3.3 million each. 

The idea of Apollo - which marks the first time global pharmaceutical companies and world-leading universities have created this type of fund - is to advance academic preclinical research from these universities to a stage at which it can either be taken forward by one of the industry partners following an internal bidding process or be out-licensed. The combined funding ensures that risk is shared and costs are reduced. 

Apollo will be based at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst and advised by an independent Drug Discovery Team of ex-industry scientists to help identify and shape projects to bring forward for development. For successful projects, the originating university and tech office will receive a percentage of future commercial revenues or out-licensing fees and the remainder will be divided amongst all the Apollo partners.

“Apollo provides an additional source of early stage funding that will allow more therapeutics projects within the three universities to realise their full potential. The active participation of the industry partners will also mean that projects will be shaped at a very early stage to optimise their suitability for further development,” said Ian Tomlinson, Chairman of the Apollo Therapeutics Investment Committee.

“The Apollo Therapeutics Fund should benefit the UK economy by increasing the potential for academic research to be translated into new medicines for patients the world over.”