CANCER RESEARCH UK is set to extend its drug discovery effort by investing up to £16 million in two new Drug Discovery Programmes at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester and the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow.

The charity has also awarded additional grants of up to £2.5 million each to the University of Southampton and the University of Oxford to kick-start new therapeutic antibody work. It is expected the grants will be provided over a five year period*.

The new Drug Discovery Programes in Manchester and Glasgow have been established to seek out potential drug targets and develop cancer drug treatments of the future. The grants awarded to Southampton and Oxford will be used to create new vaccines that stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer.

The investment is the result of a new strategic initiative from Cancer Research UK aimed at increasing the charity’s expertise in small molecule drug discovery – using chemical compounds to stop the growth and spread of cancer and antibody therapy to promote immune responses against cancer.

Dr Peter Sneddon, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of clinical and translational research funding, said: “It’s extremely exciting to be able to invest in such high-level drug discovery projects. The two new programmes will strengthen the charity’s capability in this crucial area of research and will be able to harness the charity’s basic-science expertise to discover potential new treatments that will help fight cancer.

“The two immunotherapy projects will help step-up our efforts in this fast moving area of research.”

Dr Donald Ogilvie who will lead the Drug Discovery Programme at the Paterson Institute in Manchester, said:”I am delighted to be leading this new programme. We will focus on areas of unmet need – such as treatments for rare cancers – which have the potential to yield new treatment options that can have a real impact on cancer patients.”

Dr Martin Drysdale, who will head up the Drug Discovery Programme at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow, added: “This challenging role will provide lots of new and exciting opportunities. I plan to use my expertise in a relatively new approach called fragment based screening in which we will test thousands of chemical ‘fragments’ against their chosen drug target and pick the ones that work best. This approach allows us to build a drug from scratch instead of finding one which might be suitable and then trying to improve it. We aim to use this new centre to boost the charity’s capability in this area.”

The team at the University of Southampton will be led by Professor Martin Glennie** and the University of Oxford team will be headed up by Dr Alison Banham. These groups will seek to create new antibodies to treat cancer and allow the body’s immune system to attack and kill cancer cells.

Dr Sneddon added: “This investment is in line with Cancer Research UK’s ambitious five-year plan which will see the charity spend around £300 million a year on core areas of science to reduce cancer deaths – including greater investment in those areas where survival rates remain poor. Finding new drugs which work where others have failed will be core to us delivering this.”


For media enquiries, please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8309 or, out of hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


*These grants are subject to Cancer Research UK’s annual scientific review process.

**This work will be jointly led by Professor Aymen Al-Shamkhani.

About Dr Donald Ogilvie

Dr Ogilvie has been a medical researcher for 29 years focusing on cancer research for 23 years. After nine years as an academic researcher, mainly based at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, Dr Ogilvie joined the pharmaceutical industry working for ICI, Zeneca and then AstraZeneca. Following 16 years drug discovery and development work he has joined the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research to lead the new Drug Discovery Centre.

About Dr Martin Drysdale

Dr Drysdale received his degree and PhD at the University of St Andrews in chemistry. He worked for the pharmaceutical companies Wellcome and GlaxoWellcome which has now become GlaxoSmithKline and then moved to RiboTargets now Vernalis, where he spent 11 years. He has specialised in neuroscience as well as cancer.

About Professor Martin Glennie and Professor Aymen Al-Shamkhani

Professor Glennie began developing monoclonal antibodies to target cancer cells at the University of Southampton in 1982 and has also worked on a range of reagents for treating lymphoma and more recently solid tumours. He has been the director of the Cancer Sciences Division at the University of Southampton School of Medicine since 2005.

Professor Al-Shamkhani trained in immunology at the University of Oxford and joined the University of Southampton in 1998. He was awarded a personal chair in 2007 and is currently professor of immunology. His long term interest is to understand the interactions of the immune system, particularly T cells with cancer cells and to harness the immune system to target cancer.

About Professor Alison Banham

Dr Alison Banham obtained her degree and D.Phil from the University of Oxford. She made her first monoclonal antibodies to food spoilage fungi in 1990 and is a founder member of Euromabnet, the European Network of Monoclonal Antibody Producing Laboratories. She has been making and using monoclonal antibodies to study cancer, primarily lymphoma, for the last 14 years at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.