Deerfield Licenses Gene Therapy from University College London Business & Apollo Therapeutics Collaborative

Deerfield Licenses Gene Therapy from University College London Business & Apollo Therapeutics Collaborative

Drug development deals become more complex and intriguing by the month as University College London Business (UCLB) and Apollo Therapeutics (Apollo), a pioneering collaboration between three global pharmaceutical companies and three UK university technology transfer offices, along with Deerfield Management Company, completed the licensing of the first Apollo-supported project, a novel gene therapy program developed University College London (UCL). Now the technology will be advanced in partnership with investor Deerfield, leveraging the state-of-the-art work already completed. This deal essentially establishes the framework to “bridge the translational gap” from academia to investigational product ready for commercialization.

TrialSite breaks this complexity down to some basic points.

Where did this research project originate?

The research stated at University College London (UCL), a world leader in the rare disease gene therapy field, with over 100 clinical academic research groups currently investigating over 350 rare diseases.

Who is Apollo and how are they involved?

Apollo was formed in 2016 as a collaborative venture between three working-leading UK universities (Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Cambridge) and three world leading health care industry partner companies (AstraZeneca UK Limited, Glaxo Group Limited and Johnson & Johnson Innovation-JJDC, Inc). The aim of this effort is to identify and advance academic preclinical research that might benefit from a translational approach to discover potential new medicines for areas of high medical need.

Who is UCLB? 

UCL Business Ltd (UCLB) is actually the commercialization company on behalf of University College London (UCL) Innovation & Enterprise. Hence UCLB’s role is to identify commercialization opportunity for UCL’s globally renowned faculties and associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital.

So Apollo and UCLB came together to do the deal with Deerfield?

Yes. Given the magnitude of the Deerfield deal making prowess across U.S. academic medical centers, this is a significant licensing deal for Apollo and UCLB and reflects the quality of research and innovation emerging from leading UK universities and the translational drug discovery expertise of Apollo. In fact, Dr. Richard Butt of Apollo commented, “This first licensing deal with Deerfield demonstrates how Apollo can bridge the translational gap from academic research to product that’s commercially-ready and validates our novel model.”

What is significant about this UK-based deal with U.S.-based Deerfield?

Deerfield has become a heavy hitter in drug development financing and deal making. TrialSite has followed multiple deals where they have implemented a deal template, such as that at University of Illinois, University of Michigan, and Columbia University

This U.S. healthcare investment firm now for this UK-based deal will bring the same formula, leveraging drug development and operational capabilities to advance the translation of biomedical discoveries into transformative treatments for patients.

What’s the size of Deerfield’s most recent life sciences fund?

$840 million. Deerfield recently closed the Deerfield Healthcare Innovations Fund II, LP, which is investing in advancements in science that can lead to important therapeutic interventions and back new technologies and infrastructure to improve the way healthcare is delivered to patients.

Does Apollo have more deals in the pipeline?

Yes. Dr. Butt reports that their therapeutic program pipeline, emphasizing emerging science developed at their partnership universities has been developed with unmet patient need as a target. They full plan on more license deals in 2020.

Does doing business with Deerfield validate the Apollo model?

Yes. Dr. Richard Fagan, Director of BioPharm, UCLB and member of Apollo’s Investment Committee, expressed his pleasure with putting a deal together with Deerfield commenting that they are “one of the leading investors in life sciences and its backing is testament to the great work by UCL in rare diseases.” 

Fagan continued that the Deerfield injection of capital “is great validation of the Apollo joint venture business model, and demonstrates how UK institutions and its research can attract financing and support from global firms.” The deal also showcases innovative creative ways investors and universities can come together to do business. Fagan will embrace the opportunity to work closely with the American investors.

What’s Deerfield’s position on gene therapies?

Their Managing Partner James E. Flynn identifies the need for academic, corporate and financial leadership to come together in a productive, progressive collaboration in both embracing the potential and working to eliminate unnecessary constraints.

Where will this new collaboration be housed?

Deerfield has set up the newly launched Cure building in the heart of New York City to accelerate important work such as this.  This building brings together leading companies in the life science, digital health, medical technology and health services industries from around the world to uncover innovative solution to address high-need therapeutic areas.

This new effort will house this collaboration under one roof.

About Apollo Therapeutics

Apollo Therapeutics is a unique collaboration between three global pharmaceutical companies (AstraZeneca UK Limited, Glaxo Group Limited and Johnson & Johnson Innovation-JJDC, Inc.) and the technology transfer offices (TTOs) responsible for commercializing the research from Imperial College London, IP Group, UCL (University College London) and the University of Cambridge. Apollo offers drug discovery expertise and translational research funding for early-stage therapeutics projects arising from the three universities.  This is the first time that three global pharmaceutical companies and the TTOs of three world-leading universities have come together to form a joint enterprise of this nature, making Apollo Therapeutics a truly innovative venture.  Apollo not only provides an additional source of early-stage funding that will allow more projects to be progressed, but also involves the active participation of the industry partners, bringing commercial drug development expertise.

About Deerfield Management Company

Deerfield is a healthcare investment management firm committed to advancing healthcare through investment, information and philanthropy.

About UCL Business Ltd (UCLB)

UCL Business Ltd (UCLB), part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise, is the commercialization company for UCL. Working with UCL’s globally renowned faculties and associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital, it brings together exceptional ideas, innovations and industry to benefit society and the economy.

UCLB’s track record of success includes over £1.5 billion raised in investment for UCL spinouts, and its Portico Ventures Programme is enabling the next wave of technology-based businesses to thrive in a fast-moving ecosystem. Its fund offerings – Apollo Therapeutics (in partnership with leading UK universities and pharmaceutical companies), UCL Technology Fund, and Social Ventures fund – help to bring pioneering technologies from the laboratory to market, enabling academic entrepreneurs to tackle global challenges, from energy and engineering to healthcare and the environment.

About UCL Innovation & Enterprise

UCL is one of the world’s top 10 universities, a powerhouse of academic excellence. A story less frequently told is its track record in working with industry, government, and other innovators. Partnerships that have generated many of the ground-breaking solutions and critical thought leadership required to address some of the most challenging problems facing society. Specialist teams at UCL Innovation & Enterprise, help make these partnerships happen.


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