MRCT Dave TapolczayDave Tapolczay, CEO at Medical Research Council Technology (MRCT), talks about technology transfer and some exciting collaborations with other BIA members.

MRCT is a technology transfer organisation and charity that bridges the gap between basic research and commercial application, helping academia, and pharma and biotech companies navigate the challenges of the so-called “valley of death”. MRCT was established 14 years ago to handle the technology transfer needs of the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC). Whilst this remains a major focus today, we now also work with universities, medical research charities, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology organisations around the world.

MRCT ensures that academic and medical charity partners generate a return on their research investment, and provides industry partners with a pipeline of commercially viable projects. We protect early stage research and carry out additional development, through de-risking early stage small molecule and therapeutic antibody targets by creating lead stage compounds or humanised antibodies, or through development of medical diagnostics.

To this end, we have helped launch 12 drugs and form 18 start-ups, negotiated over 400 licences, and generated over £600 million in royalty revenues for our academic and charity partners, with global pharma revenues from this work being over £40 billion.

We are proud to include many BIA members as our partners. To mention just a few recent collaborations:

  • In July this year we renewed a strategic collaboration with AstraZeneca. This gives our scientists access to a combined library of over 200,000 compounds for screening against novel targets in the areas of oncology, inflammation and diabetes. This renewal builds on the success of the alliance to date, with multiple projects already initiated with the aim of developing innovative medicines.
  • Following a very successful collaboration between MRCT and Queen Mary University of London, in June we completed an agreement for Pfizer to purchase a melanocortin receptors (MCRs) programme, which includes a set of small molecules with significant therapeutic potential. This and similar deals illustrate MRCT’s not-for-profit model, where revenues are reinvested to support other collaborative programmes.
  • February saw MRCT enter an exclusive license agreement with UCB. The programme stems from collaboration between MRCT and leading academics at the University of Sheffield where we have been developing a novel antibody-based therapy which targets a key step in the progression of fibrosis.
  • At the end of last year the Dementia Consortium was formed, bringing together research experts from the charitable, academic and private sectors to expedite development of new drugs for dementia.  The Consortium unites MRCT and Alzheimer’s Research UK alongside pharma companies Eisai and Lilly. Our aim is to bridge the gap between fundamental research into the causes of dementia and new treatments.

MRCT’s aim is to see our endeavours, and those of our partners, benefit the health of the public. MRCT’s development work has already delivered three marketed drugs: Tysabri, Actemra and Entyvio. A further five drugs are currently in the clinic, and two are in preclinical studies.  Of these, pembrolizumab represents a new generation of therapies aimed at activating the immune system to attack cancer cells. Humanized by MRCT’s antibody engineering group, the antibody is now being developed by Merck Sharp Dohme (MSD), and has shown very promising Phase III trial results for the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma, and other tumour types. Pembrolizumab has been submitted to the European Medicines Agency for marketing authorisation (June 2014) and submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration for priority review (May 2014) in advanced melanoma.

Looking ahead, MRCT’s sights are firmly focussed on mid-2015 when we will be moving our labs and head office functions from London, relocating to Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. The move represents a key stage in MRCT’s development and for our future as a centre of excellence in target validation and early drug discovery.