UK Drug Development Charity LifeArc Gives £10m to Fund Re-purposed Drug Therapy Clinical Trials Targeting COVID-19

UK Drug Development Charity LifeArc Gives £10m to Fund Re-purposed Drug Therapy Clinical Trials Targeting COVID-19

LifeArc, a UK-based medical research charity, has given £10 million in grants to accelerate patient enrollment in clinical trials searching for effective therapies targeting COVID-19. Fifteen studies in total, involving 30 different organizations, were chosen for their ability to accelerate study start-up and the likelihood of success. With a pragmatic focus on already approved therapies in other indications or well-established investigational targets with a known mechanism of action, this effort essentially focuses on “repurposed drugs.” Two key elements inform this strategy, including 1) the drugs have a higher probability of identifying a treatment, and 2) the possibility of development in a shorter period of time.

A Lot of High-Quality Submissions

This proposal process was set up and executed in a timely manner. Life Arc’s Associate Director of Technology Transfer, Dr. Catriona Crombie, reported: “The quality and quantity of submissions in such a short time frame demonstrated the need for the rapid availability of funding.” In total, the charitable donor received 130 submissions from organizations around the world. 

A shortlist was selected by utilizing an independent Scientific Review Panel and leveraging the evaluation criteria based on the overall scientific rationale of the approach combined with the respondent’s ability to launch a study in 6-12 months. 

Short List

The Chair of the Scientific Review Panel, Stephen Holgate, Professor of Immunopharmacology, University of Southampton, reported, “Finding new treatments for COVID-19 is a hugely important task, and this is an important initiative to happen as this crucial time.” With so many “imaginative and exciting proposals” the panel achieved the goal of finding the best candidates covering a range of approaches from new antivirals, immune modulators, and anti-thrombotic to treating patients at various stages of infection: from the prophylaxis to those requiring ventilation.

Collaboration with Industry

Many of the academic clinical investigators seek to collaborate with biotech and pharma in the clinical trials. Some charities and government funding are also involved in these studies. Fifteen proposals were ultimately selected, and seven of them have finalized contracts in place. The details are included below, as well as on the website.

Study NamePrincipal Investigating Facility
Almitrine bismesylate in COVID-19University of Oxford
ATTRACTUniversity of London
DEFEAT-COVID studyAshford and St Peters Hospital NHS Trust,
Guangdong Uni-Innovation Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd
FLARE TrialUniversity College London
PIONEER TrialChelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust,
Royal Brompton Hospital,
Imperial College
RAVENKing’s College London
SPIKE-1 TrialThe University of Edinburgh
The COVASE StudyUniversity College London
The Francis Crick Institute

About LifeArc

LifeArc, a registered UK charity, seeks to drive medical innovation through their research and their work with a range of partners from industry, charities, research organizations, and others involved in proving lives for patients. They focus their efforts on “progressing work from early lab-based findings through to development and a point where it can be used in patients.”

Formally known as the Medical Research Council Technology (MRC Technology, MRCT), the British life science research charity changed its name to LifeArc in 2017. They were established in 2000 to translate the work of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) research scientists.

The organization offers truly value-added services from intellectual property identification, protection and commercialization technology development, diagnostic development, early-stage drug discovery, and antibody humanization services for its stakeholders and participants.