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Cancer Research UK ploughs Ј21 million into new Drug Discovery Programmes

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by Cancer Research UK | News

22 September 2009

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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.