Cancer Research UK partnership aims to back 10 new startups

The new pharma collaborations driving transformative research in oncology

Cancer Research UK has expanded an alliance with investment group Deep Science Ventures with a commitment to support the formation up to 10 new oncology startups.

London-based DSV has been working since 2019 with the charity's Cancer Research Horizons unit, an incubator organisation which was set up to nurture new discoveries in academia and help to bring them to patients.

The organisation has been instrumental in the formation of more than 60 startups across cancer therapeutics, diagnostics and medtech, collectively raising more than £2.3 billion ($2.75 billion) since it was formed in the early 2000s.

DSV's involvement will provide pre-seed capital for the new ventures, which will be incubated within Cancer Research Horizon’s wet labs with support from scientists among its researcher network.

The two organisations have previously collaborated on the creation of three cancer therapeutics companies, including bacterial delivery system developer Neobe therapeutics, oncolytic virus therapy company Stratosvir, and bioinformatics specialist Enedra.

The new ventures will be focused on cancers where large subsets of patients remain unresponsive or ineligible for existing treatments, say the partners.

The first to be announced is centred around neurofibromatosis, a collection of rare genetic condition that causes tumours to develop on the covering of nerve cells, leading to disfigurement and a host of other complications.

The venture is being backed by the Children’s Tumour Foundation, which will provide expertise and access to the patient community, and that is a model that DSV and Cancer Research Horizons hope to roll out to future projects.

Each venture build will be led by a DSV founding analyst and overseen by a joint steering committee, guiding the development of promising technologies that if successful will be spun out into startup companies.

"Cancer Research Horizons supports an exceptional network of over 4,000 researchers," said Dr Hamish Ryder, chief executive of the organisation's therapeutic innovation division.

"Our venture creation alliance with Deep Science Ventures provides them with the opportunity to get involved in a novel model for innovation which we hope will tackle some of the most pressing challenges in cancer medicine, driving forward positive change in how we treat patients."

Last year, DSV also joined forces with the UK Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult to take a similar approach to the creation of new ventures in the area of advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs).