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Cancer Research UK reveals innovation engine underpinned by £400m portfolio of cutting-edge discovery science

Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest independent funder of cancer research, today (Tuesday 26th), unveiled Cancer Research Horizons, its new and ambitious approach to driving innovation in the development of new treatments for patients, by combining the power of academia and industry.

Horizons will bring under one umbrella for the first time Cancer Research UK’s established drug discovery laboratories, network of world-class biology, cutting-edge technology platforms and clinical expertise, offering a unique R&D portfolio to potential industry partners.

Horizons will also provide research commercialisation support, intellectual property advice, an entrepreneurial programme and £30m of seed funding* to help tackle the translational gap.

Under Horizons, industry partners will gain access to Cancer Research UK’s extensive network of 4,000 world-leading cancer researchers and a discovery research portfolio investment of over £400 million annually.

This includes an end-to-end drug discovery offering from initial concept through to patient benefit, including state-of-the-art CRISPR technologies, hit discovery methods, and unique access to relevant disease models.

Dr Iain Foulkes**, who has been appointed as the new CEO of Cancer Research Horizons, said: “I am delighted to take the helm of Horizons where we can build on our strong track record of drug discovery and development, which includes abiraterone and rucaparib. As the second-largest out-licensor of cancer research globally we have an important role to play in the life science sector. “Our ambitions for this new organisation are higher than ever, through Cancer Research UK we fund some of the best research in the world – we want our innovation outputs to match this both in terms of volume, diversity and quality. Horizons will work hand in hand with our biopharma partners to expand our drug discovery efforts and accelerate the pace at which new medicines reach patients.”

Horizons will also receive a £220m investment from Cancer Research UK over the next 10 years in drug discovery, leveraging in a further £350m in third party investment over this period, aiming to attract £2 of leverage for every £1 deployed.

Horizons will also bring together 200 drug discovery experts who were previously working as independent groups, to collaborate as one in-house team. This will consolidate the expertise and network within a single organisation, allowing the development of differentiating capabilities, and the insight needed to take on challenging and high-value targets.

One aspect Horizons will focus on is the pursuit of tougher, relatively unexplored and more profound ideas that hold promise for true innovation. For example, Cancer Research UK backed the development of POLθ inhibitors, which were at the time deemed too risky by industry, resulting in the successful spin-out Artios, which is now testing these cutting-edge drugs in clinical trials.

Hamish Ryder, who will be the new CEO of Therapeutic Innovation for Cancer Research Horizons, said: “We want to take cutting edge innovations out of the lab and transform them into cancer beating treatments, devices and diagnostics. But we can’t do this alone, we will need to work with researchers, industry and investors to bring forward the day when all cancers are eliminated. Cancer Research Horizons will bring our innovation capabilities into one place, and our ambition over the coming years is to become the partner of choice for translating scientific breakthroughs that will bring maximum patient benefit.”

Importantly, any surplus funds generated by Horizon’s innovations reaching the market will go back into funding the next bold steps in cancer research, which will in turn further speed up the next big breakthroughs.



For media enquiries contact Ellie Bennett in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 5370 or, out of hours, on 020 3469 8301.

Notes to Editor

*The £30m seed fund will be invested into a select number of projects on a rolling basis, over a five-year term. £15m of this fund will be contributed by Cancer Research UK, with the remaining target of £15m coming from philanthropic investment. Once selected, a project will receive a £50k proof-of-concept investment, and then a larger £250-500K ‘seed round’ investment which will help validate the research and demonstrate its commercial viability to industry. Following this, the seed funding programme will also provide follow-on-investment into Series A funding rounds to incentivise and accelerate commitment of funds from external investors.

The fund will be not-for-profit, and investors will not see a return, rather, proceeds from seed investments made by the fund will be reinvested into the fund to support future innovations in an ‘evergreen’ manner.

**Dr Iain Foulkes is the Chief Executive Officer of Cancer Research Horizons, and Director of Research and Innovation at Cancer Research UK. Appointed to the Board in 2009, he is responsible for the charities research strategy and its implementation. He oversees CRUK’s portfolio of research across discovery science, translational research, clinical and population research. This research portfolio includes our international Grand Challenges, our clinical trial portfolio and oversight of our Institutes and Centres. As CEO of Cancer Research Horizons, he is also responsible for ensuring our research is developed and commercialised, often in partnership with biotech and pharmaceutical companies to ensure the outputs of research reach patients as rapidly and effectively as possible.

***Horizons combines the CRUK components of the departments and organisations previously known as Cancer Research Technology, CRUK Therapeutic Development Labs, CRUK Commercial Partnerships, the Functional Genomics Consortium and the Antibody Alliance Labs into one new fully-owned and integrated subsidiary of CRUK known as Cancer Research Horizons

About Cancer Research UK 

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research
  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every donation made.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

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