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23 February 2017

Apollo rises to first opportunities

Apollo Therapeutics, the commercialisation fund backed by Imperial College London, UCL and Cambridge University, has approved its first four drug discovery projects.

Author: Thierry Heles, editor

Apollo Therapeutics, a £40m ($50m) commercialisation fund backed by several universities, yesterday announced the first four drug discovery projects that have secured capital.

Launched in January 2016, Apollo is backed by the tech transfer offices of Imperial College London, University College London (UCL) and Cambridge University as well as pharmaceutical firms AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson.

The fund’s stated mission is to boost medical research translation efforts at the three universities.

The first four projects to secure capital include a small molecule discovery program to treat a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and liver, known as alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency. The research is being conducted by Ravi Mahadeva at Cambridge University and Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

The second program is a cell therapy for retinal degeneration, which leads to vision loss and blindness, based on research undertaken by Astrid Limb and Peng Khaw at UCL’s Institute of Ophthalmology.

Martin Wilkins and Lan Zhao of Imperial College London have secured capital to support their small and large molecule discovery program for pulmonary arterial hypertension, a condition that affects the cardiovascular system.

Finally, Randall Johnson of Cambridge University has received cash to continue his research into improving the efficacy and persistence of autologous and in vivo T-cell therapies.

Together, the four projects have obtained a total of £8.5m in the form of milestone project plans.

Additionally, Apollo Therapeutics also announced it has completed its recruitment process for the Drug Discovery Team Project Directors with the additions of Paul Hamblin, Darren Cawkill and Nadine Clemo.

Richard Butt, chief executive of Apollo Therapeutics, said: “The diversity of these four initial projects illustrates the breadth and quality of opportunity we are seeing from our partner universities, both in disease area and therapeutic modality.

“The participation and support of all six partners is excellent, in the spirit of this collaborative venture and the unique Apollo model.”

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