The charity Cancer Research UK and its commercialisation arm Cancer Research Technology (CRT) are to carry out a Phase I clinical trial of a monoclonal antibody drug DI-B4, discovered by the pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA, of Darmstadt, Germany.
DI-B4 is the fourth drug to enter Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Development Partnerships (CDP) programme, an initiative which allows companies to retain the rights to a treatment whilst the charity takes on early development work.
DI-B4 will be one of the first drugs to be manufactured at Cancer Research UK’s new £20 million Biotherapeutic Development Unit. After pre-clinical work is completed, it will be taken into a Phase I trial in around 20 - 40 patients with advanced B-cell lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.
The trial will be managed by Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office and will take place at up to five hospitals across the UK.
Under the terms of the partnership, Cancer Research UK will fund the study through early clinical development. Merck KGaA will then have an option to take forward and commercialise the drug in exchange for future payments to the charity. If Merck KGaA elects not to progress the programme, CRT will have rights to secure an alternative development partner.
Keith Blundy, chief executive of CRT, said, “In an increasingly competitive market place, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have to focus strategically on certain areas of research and hold back on others. This deal demonstrates how we can work together to progress cancer drugs.”