The U.K.’s MRC Technology medical research charity has changed its name to LifeArc and unveiled plans to set up two seed and research funding initiatives as part of a projected £500 million (approximately $557 million), five-year investment in innovative research in areas including antimicrobials, neuroscience, personalized oncology, and respiratory medicine.

The Philanthropic Fund will provide grants to support academic research funded by other medical research charities and organizations. The Seed Fund will invest in early-stage therapeutics and biological research. Both funds, with a combined value of £30 million ($33.4 million) over four years, are due to launch in January 2018.

“The funds build on our history of identifying and supporting early-stage scientific discoveries and will form part of the overall life science funding ecosystem to ensure a continuous pipeline of new treatments and diagnostics become available to patients,” commented John Stageman, Ph.D., chairman of LifeArc.

LifeArc will also set up collaborative research networks, known as Communities for Impact, to spearhead research in its key areas and other fields. “Today is an important landmark in our history,” stated Dr. Dave Tapolczay, LifeArc CEO. “LifeArc is a new name for an organization that already has an impressive track record of pioneering new ways to turn the best science into patient treatments. The name LifeArc better reflects what we achieve in being the arc or bridge between great science and its application to help patients.”

LifeArc recently moved into state-of-the-art facilities in Stevenage and Edinburgh. Approximately 80 scientists at the Stevenage site will work on antibody and small-molecule research. A £10 million ($11 million) sum is being invested in the Edinburgh facility to create a center of excellence for diagnostic development. MRC Technology relocated its Centre for Diagnostics Development to the Edinburgh facility in January.

LifeArc’s proposed £500 million investment is based on its financial model to 2022 and forecasts for Revenues from Merck and Co.’s sales of the anticancer drug Keytruda® (pembrolizumab). Scientiststs at MRC Technology humanized the antibody, and in 2016 the charity received $150 million from the partial monitization of Keytruda royalties.

Within the last few months, MRC Technology established a molecular diagnostics partnership with Belgian firm Biocartis, reported Dementia Consortium funding for a collaboration with the University of Manchester on Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics, licensed a hepatitis C virus (HCV) therapeutic antibody candidate to China’s Newsummit Biopharma, and inked a collaboration with Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Technology focused on identifying and validating new immunotherapy targets. 

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