Blog POSTED ON: 04 September 2019

Henry French, Head of Specialist Marketing and Communication at The Institute of Cancer Research, gives an update on a visit to the USA.

Recently I made a trip across the pond to Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, USA to represent The London Cancer Hub. It was a pleasure to meet existing collaborators with The Institute of Cancer Research, London – one of the partners in the project – and to see some new faces too.

The occasion was BIO 2019, this year’s instalment of the world’s biggest and most influential partnering conference for global life sciences. Across five days, business development staff from across the whole of the life sciences industry mixed with investors, executives and scientists in a packed-out Philadelphia Convention Centre, one of only a handful of venues across the USA large enough to accommodate all 16,000 of us.

The London Cancer Hub was part of the UK’s official delegation led by the Department of International Trade (DIT), which helps to secure inward investment to the UK. Dozens of UK universities, businesses, regional investment bodies and major projects like The London Cancer Hub were represented, painting a very healthy-looking picture for our life sciences industry in the global context.

We were guests of MedCity, which represents life sciences across London and the South East of England and was promoting The London Cancer Hub alongside a range of investment opportunities for partners in the USA. One of the early highlights at BIO 2019 was MedCity CEO Sarah Haywood’s talk about their Advanced Therapies Network, which is connecting UK experts and offering opportunities for international involvement.

BIO 2019 highlights

Other highlights of my time on the UK pavilion included meeting representatives of the Japanese Bioindustry Association, which is involved in arranging the Bio Japan conference in October – and at which our Chief Executive, Professor Paul Workman, will represent UK research and showcase The London Cancer Hub in a keynote lecture.

Alongside meeting a range of business representatives from across the world, it was also a pleasure to see some familiar faces from UK organisations including Domainex – originally a spin-out from The Institute of Cancer Research, Birkbeck College and University College London – and One Nucleus, which has helped us at the ICR on our popular Partnering to Defeat Cancer industry-scientist networking events.

I also represented the ICR in a series of 1:1 meetings with companies who were interested in possible opportunities to partner with our scientists on a range of research programmes. These meetings were overseen by the ICR’s Enterprise Unit, which acts as its technology and knowledge transfer hub and which oversees its business engagement strategy.

Drug discovery in oncology

The ICR is already one of the world’s most successful higher education institutions at commercialising research in partnership with industry, demonstrated again this year by its performance across a range of metrics. We have more than 100 active partnerships with a range of companies, from small biotech and medtech firms to big pharma.

A cornerstone of our success is our world-leading programme of academic drug discovery, which has led to drugs like abiraterone (brand name Zytiga) becoming mainstays of cancer treatment around the world.

So it was a pleasure to talk to delegates at BIO about the launch of the ICR’s new flagship £75m Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery, due to open in the first half of 2020 and which will further enhance the ability of our scientists to partner with industry to take its drugs to market.

The Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery represents just part of the opportunity for new collaborations at The London Cancer Hub, where one of the world’s most successful oncology research institutes is expanding its efforts in innovative new areas.

Hugely ambitious in scale and scope, The London Cancer Hub aims to become the world’s leading centre for cancer research, treatment, education and enterprise and once complete is projected to contribute around £1.2 billion per year to the UK economy.

Partnerships with industry will be central in fulfilling our long-term vision as the project now enters a new and exciting phase.