Cancer Research UK has announced a multimillion-pound drug discovery alliance with LifeArc and Ono Pharmaceutical Company that will allow immunotherapy drug targets for cancer to progress.

The multi-year partnership will identify targets for the development of both antibody and small molecule therapeutics. Boosted by a multimillion pound investment from Ono and a further investment from LifeArc, drug discovery experts will be pursuing targets within Cancer Research UK’s extensive portfolio of immuno-oncology research.

This new collaboration expands upon an existing alliance between Cancer Research UK and LifeArc announced in 2017. Ono’s investment and expertise will help identify new therapeutic targets, accelerate target validation within the alliance, and support validated targets through the drug discovery phase.

Under the terms of the deal, LifeArc will progress antibody projects via its antibody screening and development expertise. Small molecule projects will be taken forward by Cancer Research UK’s Therapeutic Discovery Labs.

Ono will have option rights to licence the outputs of the alliance, and take on clinical development and commercialisation of successful projects with worldwide exclusive rights. Cancer Research UK and LifeArc will receive an upfront access fee for entering the alliance, as well as additional upfront, milestone, and royalty payments for licensed projects.

Dr Hamish Ryder, director of Cancer Research UK’s Therapeutic Discovery Labs, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome Ono to join and expand our successful collaboration with LifeArc and create one of our most ambitious alliances to date. This unique alliance is a melting pot of world-leading cancer research and each organisation’s extensive expertise in oncology drug discovery.”

“As we enter into a new age of immuno-therapeutic approaches to cancer care, we hope that this partnership will accelerate the development of new treatments, bringing them to patients with cancer much faster.”