New immunotherapy drug targets for cancer will be progressed through a multimillion-pound drug discovery alliance announced today (Wednesday) between Cancer Research UK, LifeArc and Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

The multi-year partnership brings together Cancer Research UK’s network of world-leading scientists and drug discovery expertise, LifeArc’s renowned therapeutic antibody engineering and development expertise, and Ono’s considerable track record in developing cancer immunotherapies.

The collaboration will identify targets for the development of both antibody and small molecule therapeutics. Boosted by a multimillion pound investment from Ono and a further investment from LifeArc, drug discovery experts will be pursuing targets within Cancer Research UK’s extensive portfolio of immuno-oncology research.

This new collaboration expands upon an existing alliance between Cancer Research UK and LifeArc announced in 2017. Ono’s investment and expertise will help identify new therapeutic targets, accelerate target validation within the alliance, and support validated targets through the drug discovery phase.

Under the terms of the deal, LifeArc will progress antibody projects via its antibody screening and development expertise. Small molecule projects will be taken forward by Cancer Research UK’s Therapeutic Discovery Labs.

Ono will have option rights to licence the outputs of the alliance, and take on clinical development and commercialisation of successful projects with worldwide exclusive rights. Cancer Research UK and LifeArc will receive an upfront access fee for entering the alliance, as well as additional upfront, milestone, and royalty payments for licensed projects.

Dr Hamish Ryder, director of Cancer Research UK’s Therapeutic Discovery Labs, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome Ono to join and expand our successful collaboration with LifeArc and create one of our most ambitious alliances to date. This unique alliance is a melting pot of world-leading cancer research and each organisation’s extensive expertise in oncology drug discovery.”

“As we enter into a new age of immuno-therapeutic approaches to cancer care, we hope that this partnership will accelerate the development of new treatments, bringing them to patients with cancer much faster.”

LifeArc CEO, Melanie Lee, noted: “At LifeArc, we are committed to translating medical innovation to benefit patients with new therapies, diagnostics or by building on the understanding of disease. This collaboration with Cancer Research UK and Ono is an example of how shared goals and collaboration can create real value.”

“We greatly appreciate Cancer Research UK’s network of scientists, drug discovery expertise together with LifeArc’s antibody development capabilities,” said Dr. Toichi Takino, Ph.D., Corporate Officer and Executive Director, Discovery and Research of Ono.

“We are very pleased to join in the successful collaboration between Cancer Research UK and LifeArc and we believe that we together will successfully identify novel drug candidates for new cancer treatment in the immuno-oncology field, which will be further developed and commercialized by us throughout the world and fulfil unmet medical needs.”

“This unique alliance is a melting pot of world-leading cancer research and each organisation’s extensive expertise in oncology drug discovery” – Dr Hamish Ryder, director of Cancer Research UK’s Therapeutic Discovery Labs


Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. Our specialist Commercial Partnerships Team works closely with leading international cancer scientists and their institutes to protect intellectual property arising from their research and to establish links with commercial partners. The team develop promising ideas into successful cancer therapeutics, software, devices, diagnostics and enabling technologies. This helps to accelerate progress in exciting new discoveries in cancer research and bring new treatments to patients sooner.