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LifeArc charity raises £1bn from sale of royalty interest in immunotherapy drug

20 May 2019 News

The UK medical research charity LifeArc has raised US$1.297bn (approximately £1bn) from the sale of a portion of its royalty interest in Keytruda, which is the trading name for the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab.  

LifeArc was entitled to a share of the royalties because it had collaborated during the development of the drug with the pharmaceutical company MSD.

It has now sold a portion of these rights to a European subsidiary of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

The charity now plans to expand its research programme and make further investments. The windfall will make it one of the UK’s largest medical research charities by size of investment assets.

Melanie Lee, chief executive of LifeArc, said: “At LifeArc, we advance promising research into new health interventions for patients and the public benefit. This agreement with CPPIB allows us to increase our support for new approaches and collaborations and bolster access to our expertise and resources.

“Ultimately, we can support life sciences research and accelerate the development of new therapies, diagnostics and devices for those people in greatest need.”

John Stageman, chair at LifeArc, said: “The agreement with CPPIB is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, providing LifeArc with additional resources to accelerate our work.

“The board of trustees are committed to ensuring our resources enhance the translation of medical innovation and boost the UK life science ecosystem. We are continuing to evolve our strategy and approach to maximise the impact on innovation, sustainability and patient benefit.”

In 2016, LifeArc sold a small proportion of its pembrolizumab royalty interest for US$150m to a private equity fund.

It used part of this capital to establish two funds, worth £30m: the LifeArc Philanthropic Fund, which provides grants for translational research in rare diseases, and the LifeArc Seed Fund, which invests in nascent or early stage spin-out companies.

For the year ending 31 March 2018, LifeArc had an income of £25.9m and held £125.3m in long-term investments.

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