A spin-out company can be the best way to assemble a team of dedicated scientists and experts and source the significant investment needed to develop a technology.
We have all the necessary support and expertise in house to enable new companies to be formed based on the Crick’s research.
Achilles Therapeutics was formed in 2016 with £13.2 million backing from life science investment company Syncona LLP, the Cancer Research Technology Pioneer Fund and the UCL Technology Fund.
The company is based on research by scientists at the Crick and UCL. Charlie Swanton and colleagues discovered unique markers that are present on the surface of all cancer cells in an individual patient's tumour, but not on healthy cells. These markers can act as flags to the immune system. Achilles Therapeutics is developing cancer therapies that target these markers with the aim of destroying tumours without harming healthy tissues.
The aim is to develop a truly personalised approach to cancer therapy by targeting cell surface markers that are specific to each patient and present on all cancer cells rather than just a subset of cells.
George Kassiotis is one of the scientific co-founders of Enara Bio, a Crick spin-out company developing cancer-specific vaccines and other immunotherapies. George’s team worked with the Crick’s translation team, including an Expert in Residence, Houman Ashrafian, to build the company and the team went on to win the Crick’s Sir David Cooksey Prize in Translation in 2018.
Enara Bio’s approach is based on ‘endogenous retroviruses’ or viral DNA, dormant fragments of DNA left in our genome by viruses that infected our ancestors. When a cell becomes cancerous, it can reactivate these dormant sections of our DNA, sending signals visible to our immune system. Enara Bio hopes to train the immune system to spot these signals and create vaccines that selectively target cancer cells.
GammaDelta Therapeutics was co-founded in 2016 by Adrian Hayday and Oliver Nussbaumer of the Crick and King's College London with support from life sciences investors Abingworth and Cancer Research Technology.
The spin-out company received a $100m cash injection from drug firm Takeda Pharmaceuticals in 2017 to further develop its new class of immunotherapies.
The new company aims to exploit the unique activities of gamma delta (γδ) T cells that are found in the body's tissues where cancers and inflammatory diseases take hold. The novel T-cell approach could lead to new immunotherapies for a broad range of cancers and autoinflammatory diseases.
Mihaly Kollo, a researcher in Andreas Schaefer’s group at the Crick, is part of a team developing an AI-powered map of research literature to help scientists navigate the ever-increasing number of scientific papers.
With the help of the Crick's translation team and an i2i (idea to innovation) grant funded by the MRC, the company was able to work with a specialist data scientist to create a unique machine learning system that ‘reads’ papers and extracts the experimental methods and results. The program can then compare similar studies, as well as show gaps in previous research where more work could be done.
HERON was one of the first companies to take part in KQ Labs, the Crick’s start-up accelerator. Over the course of the accelerator programme, the ten start-ups were trained in pitching, building a team and acquiring funding.