21 July 2020

UCL Business (UCLB) and Apollo Therapeutics (Apollo), a pioneering collaboration between three global pharmaceutical companies and three UK university technology transfer offices, along with Deerfield Management Company, have completed the licensing of the first Apollo-supported project, a novel gene therapy programme developed at University College London (UCL). Through this deal, the technology will be further developed in partnership with Deerfield, building upon the state-of-the-art work already completed.

Deerfield, a U.S. healthcare investment firm, will leverage its cutting-edge drug development and operational capabilities to advance the translation of biomedical discoveries into transformative treatments for patients. The firm’s newly launched Cure building in the heart of New York City will accelerate this important work, bringing together leading companies in the life science, digital health, medical technology, and health services industries from around the world to uncover innovative solutions to address high-need therapeutic areas.

This is a significant licensing deal for Apollo and UCLB and reflects the quality of research and innovation emerging from leading UK universities and the translational drug discovery expertise of Apollo.

The project originated at UCL, which is a world leader in the rare disease gene therapy field, with over 100 clinical academic research groups currently investigating more than 350 rare diseases. This is among one of the key priority areas for Apollo, with a number of collaborative projects ongoing in this area.

Apollo was formed in 2016 as a collaborative venture between three world-leading UK universities and three world leading heath care industry partner companies (AstraZeneca UK Limited, Glaxo Group Limited and Johnson & Johnson Innovation-JJDC, Inc.) Its aim is to identify and advance academic preclinical research that might benefit from a translational approach to discover potential new medicines for areas of high medical need.

Dr Richard Butt, CEO of Apollo, said:

“This first licensing deal with Deerfield demonstrates how Apollo can bridge the translational gap from academic research to a product that’s commercially-ready and validates our novel model.”

“At Apollo, we have a pipeline of other exciting therapeutic programmes which have been shaped solely by the emerging science developed at our partner universities and which target the continuing unmet medical and patients’ need for new therapeutics. We expect to be able to report further licensing and portfolio progress during 2020.”

Dr Richard Fagan, Director of BioPharm, UCLB and member of Apollo’s Investment Committee, said:

“Deerfield is one of the leading investors in life sciences and its backing is testament to the great work by UCL in rare diseases. The university has significant breadth and depth of the academic research in this area and we are proud of its position as a centre of excellence. We look forward to working closely with the Deerfield team to progress the programme into clinical studies.

“Deerfield’s investment is great validation of the Apollo joint venture business model, and demonstrates how U.K. institutions and its research can attract financing and support from global firms. This deal also demonstrates how universities and industries can work together to mutual commercial benefit, which will be especially important as efforts are made to reboot the global economy.”

 James E. Flynn, Deerfield Managing Partner, said:

“To best identify and nurture the incredible potential of gene therapy developments to come, more than any time before, we need to work together and make advancing the critical work of the world’s brilliant scientists, while eliminating any unnecessary constraints, a priority. If gene therapy is to become a staple of 21st century medicine, it is key to have an infrastructure in place that utilizes the most progressive tools and scientific know-how, and which is adaptable to the changing landscape. The Cure is well-positioned to take on this charge all under one roof, and we are excited to partner with the research enterprise and extraordinary talent that comprises UCL, UCLB and Apollo.”