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UK forms a £1-billion life sciences powerhouse

Three UK investment groups have aligned to create a new company with £1 ($1.2) billion in funds to invest in life sciences, with a significant focus in oncology. The Wellcome Trust's investment arm, Syncona, joins the publicly traded investment company Battle Against Cancer Investment Trust (BACIT), and Cancer Research UK (CRUK), which is contributing assets from the £70 ($87)-million Pioneer Fund established in 2012 (Nat. Biotechnol. 30, 378, 2012). The new company aims to provide the investment needed to take potential cancer drugs from the CRUK network, including the London-based Institute of Cancer Research, from discovery into phase 2. The deal, which is subject to a BACIT shareholder vote in December, would make the Wellcome Trust BACIT's largest shareholder, with a more than 30% stake in the merged entity. The firm, which will continue to operate as BACIT, expects to invest roughly £100 ($125) million per year in life sciences opportunities until its assets are fully invested in the life sciences, with at least 25% going to oncology projects and businesses. The new deal would also assure “first look” access to CRUK's pipeline even after The Pioneer Fund is fully invested. Syncona's portfolio includes Oxford-based prostate cancer imaging company Blue Earth Diagnostics; Cambridge Epigenetics in Babraham; and the T cell immunotherapy firms Autolus and Achilles Therapeutics, both in London.

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UK forms a £1-billion life sciences powerhouse. Nat Biotechnol 34, 1212 (2016).

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