BioWorld International Correspondent

CHICAGO - The charity Cancer Research UK (CRUK) used the platform of the 14th annual Biotechnology Industry Organization meeting to announce it is setting up a technology transfer subsidiary in the U.S. to in-license and commercialize publicly funded research from U.S. institutes.

Cancer Research Technology Inc. (CRT) will be based in Boston and headed by Larry Steranka, former executive director of Brandeis University's Office of Technology Licensing, and before that, associate director for licensing at Harvard University.

The aim of CRT is to accelerate commercialization of new cancer therapies. To date its UK arm, CRT Ltd., has been involved in forming 13 companies and has 18 compounds in clinical development, 16 of which are out-licensed.

The come-on for U.S. academics is twofold: CRT Inc. is distinctive among technology transfer organizations for its specialist focus on oncology, and it has its own development laboratory in which it can carry out proof-of-concept studies, adding value and enhancing the potential for commercialization of any product.

A substantial part of the work is funded by CRUK, through its Development Fund. CRUK is the largest cancer charity in Europe and the world's largest independent funder of oncology research.

The development laboratory has expertise in molecular and cell biology, drug discovery services, early pharmacology and medicinal chemistry. CRT sponsors clinical trials, also.

Keith Blundy, chief operating officer of CRT Ltd. and chairman of CRT Inc., said the new subsidiary "will reinforce our strategy of oncology-focused development of diagnostics and therapeutics in partnership with leading U.S. academic institutions."

CRT Inc. also will get involved in licensing products out to U.S. biotechs.

Setting up a U.S. subsidiary to its technology transfer arm is a manifestation of CRUK's determination to be more proactive in pushing oncology through to market.

The main focus following CRT UK's formation from two existing bodies in 2002 was on out-licensing the fruits of research sponsored by CRUK. It then moved on to providing technology transfer services to other publicly funded research institutions. In recent months, CRT has begun to in-license technology for further development from commercial companies, and also to carry out co-development work with companies.

For example, last month CRT UK agreed to a development collaboration with Cronos Therapeutics, of London, to use Cronos' chromatin-based gene inactivation platform to inhibit gene expression of an undisclosed apoptotic target. And in February it signed a deal with Stealthyx Therapeutics Ltd., to co-develop the London-based company's Prothyx drug delivery platform that adds functionality to drug molecules, making them preferentially active at sites of diseases, thus minimizing side effects and enabling higher doses to be given less often.