The Medical Research Council is to receive over US$200m as part of one of the biggest deals to come out of breakthroughs by British scientists. It involves a drug created using patented technology derived from research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and The Scripps Research Institute in California.
The drug, HUMIRA®, is so far used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, early rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. The technology developed by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology was a key element of the setting up of Cambridge Antibody Technology in 1990 as a business
The Scripps Research Institute and the American company Stratagene are the other licensors of the patented technology.
The American pharmaceutical company, Abbott has agreed to pay (via Cambridge Antibody Technology) US$255 million in lieu of the future royalties the MRC, the Scripps Research Institute and Stratagene would have received on sales of HUMIRA® after December 2004. Of this sum, MRC will receive US$191m. In addition, Abbott will pay (via Cambridge Antibody Technology) the MRC a further US$7.5m over five years from 2006, providing that HUMIRA® remains on the market. The MRC is also to receive a further £5.1m (sterling) in respect of past royalties.
The MRC patents cover a series of inventions from, among others, Sir Gregory Winter and his colleagues at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology during the late 1980s and early 1990s for making ‘human monoclonal antibodies’.
Sir Gregory commented “Our inventions originated from pure curiosity-driven and long-term basic research funded at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology by the MRC. Provided such research is intelligently exploited, it can pay handsome dividends for medicine, UK industry and human health. It can also generate considerable royalty income, which ploughed back into science will help generate the medicines and industries of the future.”
Professor Colin Blakemore, the MRC Chief Executive added “This deal is great news for British science and it demonstrates the importance of long-term public investment in basic research. It is just one of the many achievements that the MRC has won for human health and the UK economy through working with industry. We shall use this reward from past discoveries to give our scientists new research facilities and to invest in initiatives that will help us to translate cutting-edge scientific research into future healthcare”.
The related Scripps patents cover inventions which hailed from, among others, the laboratory of Dr. Richard A. Lerner. Dr. Lerner said “It is wonderful to see the work from our two laboratories come together to benefit so many patients suffering from a variety of serious conditions.”
Although the scientists from MRC and Scripps were scientific competitors in earlier years, they pooled their inventions in Cambridge Antibody Technology to facilitate exploitation of the technology for creation of new medicines.