LifeArc accelerates healthcare innovation by transforming promising life science ideas into life-changing medical breakthroughs for patients. As a self-funded charity we are not dependent on external funding for our projects. However we have an excellent tradition of partnering with others involved in early-stage translation – advancing lab-based scientific discoveries to a point at which they can be developed into the next generation of diagnostics, treatments and cures.

How we do it

We seek out innovation, primarily in universities, charities and start-ups; we help advance innovation through our own lab-based research, the support and advice we provide to our partners and the funding we make available.

We collaborate as a trusted partner with a broad range of groups including medical research charities, research organisations, industry and academic scientists.

We nurture talent, developing expertise and skills in our people through accredited training and project experience while also helping to develop others through our fellowship and industrial placement schemes.

We develop data-driven solutions to navigate the path to the patient.

Our four impact areas

We have set out four categories for measuring our impact. These reflect not just our strategic priorities but the breadth of our work in translational science, advice and funding.

Because the process from lab to patient can involve many parties that don’t directly connect with patients, we look broadly at how our work contributes to improving patients’ lives. Taken together, these four areas of impact illustrate how we are transforming the way diseases are identified and treated, facilitating life-changing breakthroughs for patients and benefits for society.

1. Research translation

Our core purpose is to translate new research into new products, devices and services, taking them closer to the point where they begin to change patients’ lives for the better. For research to benefit patients, it must ultimately be translated from the original scientific concept into new products, devices or services.

This can take many years and significant investment in resources. Our role in advancing this research can involve: developing new diagnostic or therapeutic products, to the point where they can be licensed to third parties for commercialisation; creating or protecting intellectual property for life sciences innovations; and providing funding and advice for spin-off companies.

Key achievements in 2021

  • Translational support provided to MRC, including contract negotiation, patent and trademark management, and support in setting up licensing agreements
  • Alzheimer’s therapy project partnership with researchers in the UK and Germany has published results and is looking for a commercial partner to progress to clinical trials

Measurable impact

  • Over 18 start-ups supported to date as part of our partnership with the MRC
  • Four new patents and one trademark filed in the past year on the MRC’s behalf
  • 19 new license agreements filed
  • Seven technology disclosures managed
2. Stimulating new research

One of our key strategies is to stimulate new research through funding and partnerships, ensuring that key areas of patient need receive focus and practical support that would not otherwise be accessible to them.

We stimulate research into the development of new treatments through funding, collaborations and partnerships.

We provide funding and advisory support to research projects and to early-stage businesses, providing essential support for innovation into key areas of underserved patient need and helping to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Our scope of facilitation includes: leveraging our own and our collaborators’ knowledge and resources, to fill research gaps and develop new patient interventions; and investing for impact, being prepared to take risks on funding innovations with significant potential for improving patient wellbeing.

Key achievements in 2021

  • Our Early Ventures investment strategy has already enabled five companies to receive or raise funding
  • Partnerships established with the MND Society, MND Scotland and My Name’5 Doddie to accelerate much-needed research into treatments for this life-shortening disease
  • 10 start-up companies received funding through the KQ Labs initiative and a further three through Novartis Biome; LifeArc is an investor in both initiatives

Measurable impact

  • Two joint funding initiatives have been launched through our partnership with the leading MND charities
  • Series A funding obtained by Avvinity Therapeutics with LifeArc support
  • Three projects funded through the Covid fund have now published results which could change the way we treat patients
3. Knowledge generation

Our research and translational activity enables us to generate new science and health knowledge, expanding the range of life sciences knowledge and opening up new opportunities for future innovation. Our own lab-based scientific research, platforms and diagnostics work accelerates the progress of innovative scientific discoveries and technologies in areas of significant need.

Our scientific research stimulates and supports innovation, both internally and for others, by increasing the pool of life sciences knowledge, publishing papers, presenting at public events, making research tools and methods available to researchers and sharing research databases and models for use by others.

Key achievements in 2021

  • Over 150 sector experts attended a workshop hosted by The Philanthropic Fund team in collaboration with Pinsent Masons, to understand and chart a way through the challenges of drug repurposing
  • The Dementia Consortium, of which LifeArc is a member, published an outline of a potential diagnostic tool for neurodegenerative disease in Neurobiology of Disease

Measurable impact

  • A guide to drug repurposing for charities [PDF] was published in 2021, with a toolkit to follow in 2022
  • 20 papers were published and LifeArc was referenced in a further 10 peer-reviewed publications
  • Five papers published by LifeArc supported projects during 2021 in Nature, The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and Neurobiology of Disease
4. Developing future scientists

We operate a range of programmes to develop the human capacity to carry out and enable research, helping to ensure future generations of scientists while instilling in them an understanding of the translation process.

The future of life sciences research depends on having a sufficient flow of diverse talent into the industry. There is a pressing need for people who are excited to bring new ideas to life and passionate about improving the lives of patients and the people who care for them.

We therefore nurture our own talent through accredited training and project experience, and help to develop others through our fellowships, mentoring and industrial placement schemes.

LifeArc enables both current and future scientists to acquire and develop specialist skills, primarily through: our industrial placement programme for undergraduates; our AUTM and Technology Transfer Fellowship programmes; support for postdoctoral research projects; support for research and development facilities, such as our support for the construction of a network of Gene Therapy Innovation Hubs; and our support for PhD students through the CASE programme.

Key achievements in 2021

  • 15 researchers took up AUTM or Technology Transfer Fellowships for the year 2021-22
  • Nine life sciences university students started an industrial placement with us

Measurable impact in developing future scientists

  • Four of our CASE students completed their PhDs successfully during the year, with a further six looking to complete in 2022
  • 93% of our AUTM fellows to date, have secured a role in technology transfer before the completion of their fellowship