UCL Technology Fund invests £1m in to School of Pharmacy project to treat pancreatic cancer

The UCL Technology Fund (UCLTF), which provides funding and support for UCL’s most transformative innovations, has approved an investment of up to £1m in Professor Stephen Neidle’s ‘G-Quadruplex’ Targeting project, which has the potential to treat pancreatic and other cancers.

Pancreatic cancer is devastating and almost always refractory to treatment, resulting in rapid and near-invariably fatal disease progression, usually within a few months of diagnosis. This outlook has not changed in over 40 years despite significant advances in the understanding of disease mechanisms, and the availability of many new cancer therapies. It represents one of the most significant unmet needs in oncology, and indeed in medicine in general.

Professor Neidle has long been a pioneer in the rational design of drugs to selectively switch off the functioning of cancer-related genes. His group has developed a new type of drug that targets the small ‘islands’ of unusual DNA structure (called ‘quadruplexes’) that exist in a number of cancer-related genes. These drugs stabilise the quadruplexes, reducing cancer-gene expression, as well as inducing cell-death mechanisms in cancer cells. Professor Neidle and his team have shown than these drugs can have significant anti-cancer effects in experimental models of pancreatic cancer.

Support for the G-Quadruplex Targeting project has been enabled by UCLTF’s innovative investment model. In addition to providing funding and commercial support for traditional university spinout companies, UCLTF also provides investment finance for translational projects which have significant commercial potential, by which funding is provided directly to academic labs such as Professor Neidle’s team in the UCL School of Pharmacy.

This approach enables university research groups to de-risk technological development of their projects. This increases the probability of achieving more substantive licensing outcomes, by efficiently supporting projects through to a much later stage. UCLTF support for the G-Quadruplex Targeting project is intended to help rapidly bring this novel cancer therapy closer to the point where human clinical trials can be contemplated. The project is being carried out in close collaboration with the UCL Drug Discovery Group, led by Dr Richard Angell.

For more information about the fund please go to http://www.ucltf.co.uk/news/