MRC Technology evolved from the Medical Research Council (MRC)’s Industrial Liaison Group (ILG), a division within MRC Head Office set up in 1983, and the MRC Collaborative Centre, established in 1986.
From its earliest years the main focus of the ILG was on commercial exploitation of intellectual property arising in MRC units.
The Collaborative Centre moved to a site in Mill Hill in 1988, adjoining the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR – the MRC’s largest research establishment at the time) to engage in collaborative research with industrial partners. While most of the original projects were based on NIMR research, the Centre could also engage in industrial collaborations stemming from the work of other MRC research establishments, and did so with notable success in the field of antibody engineering. Industry partners at the time included Sankyo, Chugai and Merck.
It quickly became apparent that the growth of the Collaborative Centre was constrained by the fact that, as an MRC Unit, it was subject to central government financial and accounting arrangements. A decision was made to incorporate the Collaborative Centre as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. It was set up as a company on 18 March 1992 and then registered as a charity in England and Wales on 17 November 1992.
In 1992, ILG changed its name to Technology Transfer Group.
The success of the Collaborative Centre spurred the launch of the MRC Collaborative Centre Scotland in Edinburgh in 1995. On 17 December 1999 the Collaborative Centres and the Technology Transfer Group merged to become Medical Research Council Technology (MRCT), creating an organisation working across three sites.
In early 2010, the Intellectual Property, Business Development and Licensing and Agreement functions based at Park Crescent relocated to Lynton House and were joined by the administrative function groups (Finance, Human Resources, Marketing and ICT) from Mill Hill.
The Centre for Diagnostics Development was set up in Edinburgh in January 2014.
In April 2016, operations from Mill Hill and part of Lynton House relocated to new bespoke labs and offices at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. The Edinburgh office expanded their research capability and moved to a bigger site at Nine, Edinburgh BioQuarter in May 2017.
Landmarks along the way:
- The Collaborative Centre first humanised monoclonal antibodies in 1997 which was marketed and led to the approval of Herceptin, a treatment for breast cancer and Humira, a medication for rheumatoid arthritis. These landmarks secured an income stream for MRC and MRCT continues to manage their royalty income.
- In 2005 the Drug Discovery Group was created to progress early stage molecular targets emerging from academic research towards clinical benefit. It was re-named Centre for Therapeutics Discovery (CTD) in 2009.
- MRC Technology humanised the antibody pembrolizumab for Organon in 2006. Organon was acquired by Schering-Plough Corporation in March 2007, who was in turn acquired by Merck (known as MSD outside of the US) in November 2009. Marketed by MSD as Keytruda®, the drug is now used to treat melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in certain situations and as a second-line treatment for head and neck cancers.
- MRCT’s medium term financial future was secured in 2016 when a proportion of Keytruda® royalty income was sold for £115.6M. The money enabled a revision of our strategy and the ability to fund more collaborations and science projects directly.
MRC Technology’s strategy evolved to support the charity’s new direction, extending services beyond the MRC to ensure we deliver on our charitable purpose to help patients get the best treatments that science can offer.
In addition to translating MRC science, MRCT also source promising health science and IP globally to progress into new patient treatments and tests.
MRC Technology became LifeArc in June 2017. We used to operate under an MRC brand license, and to reflect our independence and growing ambition and to avoid identity confusion it was essential to change our name.