Melanie Lee, Chief Executive Officer, LifeArc
On Thursday 14th November, following our AGM, we were delighted to welcome guests to celebrate with us our successful year for LifeArc, hosted at The King’s Fund in central London. This event also acknowledged the success of the life sciences and translational research sectors in the UK and reflected on the exciting innovations arising from these sectors.
Our Chairman, Dr John Stageman, opened the reception by describing LifeArc’s mission—to help turn promising science into benefits for patients through translation. He spoke about our status as a self-funded medical charity, and how we can take research ideas from first discovery principles and translate them into a commercial concept.
John went on to outline how transformative the past 12 months have been for us, including the $1.3bn (partial) monetisation of our royalty interest from our work some years ago to fully humanise the antibody-based therapy now marketed as Keytruda® (pembrolizumab). The resources generated from our work have given us a tremendous opportunity to significantly enhance our own research activities aimed at advancing promising science into new health interventions for patients.
The reception also included speeches from leaders in the field of medical research, genomics and translation. Sir Paul Nurse, Director and Chief Executive of the Francis Crick Institute opened the guest speeches by providing his perspective on the life sciences ecosystem and how we can make science work. It was fantastic to hear from the Nobel Prize winner, particularly his notion that for translation to truly work, we need all parts of the ecosystem to fit together and work in partnership.
He went on to reference the burgeoning relationship between the Francis Crick Institute and LifeArc as a key example of this; announcing the launch of the LifeArc-Crick Translation Fund, a £5m fund for Crick scientists to progress promising innovation to attract larger scale investment and development.
Chris Wigley, the new CEO of Genomics England, followed, offering insight on the new direction of the organisation and the potential the 100,000 Genomes Project offers in changing the state of the nation’s health. He focused closely on application, outlining that there is no point in sequencing billions of genomes without ensuring that this data can be used to positively impact patients’ lives.
He referenced the ‘diagnostic odyssey’, the long and arduous patient journey from initial disease recognition to a final diagnosis that is often experienced by patients with rare diseases; concluding his speech with a poignant anecdote on how he had seen first-hand the positive effects that a fast and accurate diagnosis can have on a patient and their family’s well-being.
Finally, I talked about the future of LifeArc, outlining our work in supporting the entire patient journey as it shifts towards earlier diagnosis and treatment, enabled by big data and AI. As part of this, I emphasised our support for diagnostics, highlighting the role they’ll play in advancing targeted medicines and better outcomes for patients.
I also mentioned how we help fund research through three vehicles we support – Philanthropic Fund, Seed Fund and the Bridge Valley Ventures Venture Capital Fund. These aim to address some of the gaps on the journey of translating innovation, offering an integrated funding model for biomedical sciences.
It was fantastic to get a range of perspectives from experts working across the field of medical innovation, and the range of topics discussed clearly resonated with our guests, which included those from the pharmaceutical industry, academia and charity sectors. Building on a successful event, our ambition next year will be to foster collaboration and progress new projects through new partners across the life sciences research and translation space.
Download LifeArc’s Annual Report and Accounts 2018-19 (PDF-3Mb)