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A British cancer charity is to fund clinical trials of a drug owned by GlaxoSmithKline in a pioneering programme to develop promising experimental medicines that are neglected because of limited corporate funding.

Cancer Research Technology, the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, will shortly begin tests in patients of GSK’s 1070916A, and retain a share of the profits if the drug is successfully launched.

The medicine – an aurora kinase inhibitor – is the first of three potential cancer treatments licensed from different pharmaceutical companies during the past year that it will test in humans. The charity is also talking to other companies.

Mergers and funding pressures intensify concern that increasing numbers of potentially important treatments remain untested as pharmaceutical companies focus their resources on the few drugs judged the most promising or lucrative.

Ian Walker, Cancer Research’s licensing manager, said: “GSK has got a large number of molecules in its pipeline and many merit investigation. But it can’t take them all into the clinic at the same time – so a number end up sitting on the shelf.”

The charity will fund early and mid-stage testing in humans before offering GSK the chance to finance the more expensive final stage clinical trials.

If GSK were to decline, it may offer the rights to another company instead. In either case, the charity will earn fees if the drug were to be launched.

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Development costs could run to millions of pounds.

GSK retains the rights to the drug until it decides whether to take it back for late-stage testing.

Cancer Research has already signed up two inhibitor products from AstraZeneca and Astex still in laboratory testing.

Janet Morgan, a spokeswoman for GSK, said the company is to consider revising its licensing policy for biotechnology companies. It has in the past chosen not to license-out experimental drugs that it developed and decided not to pursue clinical trials itself.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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