Commercialising cancer research: CRT’s powerful development model


We asked Cancer Research Technology (CRT) CEO Dr. Keith Blundy what made for a powerful tech transfer model for biotech in cancer research. CRT is Cancer Research UK’s development and commercialisation company and Dr Blundy tells us exactly why CRT’s development through partnership model is so powerful and explains why immune-oncology is so exciting in an exclusive interview we feature in the August edition of our magazine.



Here are a few snippets from the interview:

B&M: What do you think are the real keys to successful commercialisation? What makes it work?

Keith Blundy: I think successful commercialisation means identifying the right people (partner), who can add the right part of the value chain – that either you do not have or could not build – at the right time. Then it’s about doing the deal speedily and in a fair and transparent way. Having flexibility or different commercialisation routes is also important in a changing world.

I think there is also a big element of developing your BD team to get deals done. That’s about the culture you set. Our team is set the objective of doing a fair deal at speed and to not lose a good partner through over negotiation.

B&M: What do you think are the top 1 or 2 challenges that you’re facing?

Keith Blundy: Right now there’s still not enough early stage funding available. We have seen a really good turn around for some of the venture money available for the early stages, which has been very welcome. But we still need money to take the initial idea to proof of concept or to progress to the next small step where you might be able to market the idea to venture or other partners.

Another challenging area for us is the diagnostics space. I see that as more complicated because the way you have to eventually deliver a product is much more fragmented. Customers use a multitude of different platforms, so the development route it is not so clear.

B&M: Now much has been made about the dominance of immune-oncology, what is your view of immuno-oncology and why do you think it’s such a hot area?

Keith Blundy: The bottom line is patient impact. It’s shifted the whole survival curve and demonstrated sustainable survival benefits. It’s working, and it’s working in a durable way. You’ve seen patients on CTLA4 and now PD1 antibodies with 5 year/10 year survivals. We haven’t had changes in cancer survival curves like this for many years (if ever).

It also doesn’t look like you’re going to get the same resistance problems as with molecules that are targeted to one specific mutation. The immune system keeps evolving with the tumour once it’s “woken up” to recognise the tumour, so whatever the tumour does it deals with it.  And that’s the fundamental difference. It’s a game changer, there are many further opportunities to be explored, and that’s why everyone is so excited.

B&M: You have over 200 projects in your portfolio available for licensing and co-development.  What is CRT’s approach to licensing and what do you think makes for successful outcomes?

Keith Blundy: Our approach has always been to do the minimum we need to do to get a project into the hands of an appropriate development partner. That way we can then turn our resources to pursuing the next opportunity. The more technologies we get out and into development, the better. Our primary aim is not value inflection or selling something at the highest price (only a fair price), it’s about trying to make sure as many technologies as possible are ‘advancing discoveries to beat cancer’.

We’ll only invest in further development in house when the science is more unproven and requires bigger data packs to attract people. We’re also looking for the best development partner we can find, making sure a fair deal is done, and that we’ve got requisite development plans and diligence in place. In summary, our approach is to licence as many technologies as we can, as fast as we can, and with the best partners we can. We also ensure we keep good relationships with companies so that, should anything change, we’ve got the rights to get the project back and progress it elsewhere.

Keith will be speaking on these and other issues at our evening event on Thursday, 4 September at Imperial Innovations Incubator. Sponsored by Marks & Clerk LLP, the event will feature the speakers from Edinburgh BioQuarter, Imperial Innovations, Wellcome Trust and Apposite Capital

 Click here to find out more or to RSVP


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