Posted on Thursday 5 September 2013 by Ulster Business

PEYE  FOSTER ALMAC  0001

Pictured at Queen's Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) on the Belfast City Hospital campus are Prof David Waugh, Director, Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Alan Armstrong, CEO Almac and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

Craigavon-based pharmaceuticals company Almac is to invest a total of £13m in two research and development projects in collaboration with Queen's University Belfast.

One project will evaluate the clinical performance of the first novel cancer drug fully developed in Northern Ireland. The second project will see the creation of a new drug discovery unit within CCRCB, that will integrate academic and industrial excellence to facilitate the development of further new anti-cancer drugs.

Almac Discovery is focused on the discovery and development of novel and innovative approaches to the treatment of cancer and associated conditions. The projects will both be based at Queen's Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) on the Belfast City Hospital campus.

The investment includes a £7m offer of support from Invest NI, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Alan Armstrong, CEO of Almac, said: "By integrating academic and clinical researchers with experienced industrial scientists we have the means to accelerate cancer focused drug discovery towards the ultimate goal of improving patient care.

"A team of 17 Almac scientists will be seconded to Queen's CCRCB for three years and the combined unit will create a coordinated drug discovery and development pipeline. This integrated approach puts the initiative at a distinct advantage and reflects Northern Ireland's aim to compete more effectively as a modern knowledge based economy."

Professor James McElnay, acting Vice-Chancellor of Queen's, said: "Today's announcement, heralds an important new era for patients in Northern Ireland and beyond. The prototype for the novel cancer drug was initially discovered by Professor Tracy Robson in the School of Pharmacy at Queen's University and it has now been developed into a drug by Almac Discovery that is being taken forward into a new clinical trial.

"Not only is our newest collaboration set to deliver significant future economic benefits for Northern Ireland, it will also result in an increase in the development of potential new therapeutic approaches for patients, and accelerate the process in which treatments move from the lab bench to bedside."

Speaking during a visit to Queen's CCRCB, Arlene Foster said: "Almac is a highly respected and successful drug development company focusing on innovative cancer treatments that have global potential.

"This significant investment in research and development will enhance collaboration between academia and industry. This will ensure the investment is maximised, that research is effectively commercialised and that ultimately, enhanced treatment solutions are made available to cancer patients.

"The fact that Almac and Queen's are engaged in such ground-breaking research here in Northern Ireland is something that we should be extremely proud of. It will reinforce our position as a leader in research and development for the health and life sciences sector."

Known as ALM201, the prototype for the novel cancer drug was initially discovered by Professor Tracy Robson in the School of Pharmacy at Queen's University.

Through the work of Almac Discovery, this prototype has now been developed into a drug that is being taken forward into a new clinical trial for ovarian cancer. Led by Dr Richard Wilson, Director of the Northern Ireland Clinical Trials Unit at Queen's, it will involve up to 60 patients.

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