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Banding together for a billion-dollar effort
LONDON—Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, Syncona and investment company BACIT (Battle Against Cancer Investment Trust) have linked up to establish a company that will invest in life sciences, with a particular focus on oncology. The new unit will be valued at up to £1 billion.
Under this effort, BACIT will acquire a majority interest or all of the interest in the Pioneer Fund, a £70-million venture life-sciences fund established by Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Technology in 2012. BACIT will also acquire Syncona, an independent subsidiary of Wellcome Trust, and recruit Syncona's investing team. Cancer Research UK and Wellcome Trust will receive new ordinary shares in BACIT in exchange for their holdings, with the latter holding around 30 to 35 percent of shares in the new company. BACIT will need to secure shareholders' approval to be renamed Syncona.
"We launched Syncona with a long-term vision to offer support for some of the best innovators in life sciences, and to deliver impact to patients," said Wellcome Director Dr. Jeremy Farrar. “It has already achieved great things, and this proposal, which will see it align with BACIT and Cancer Research UK, will allow it to spread its wings and expand its horizons further. We see this as a logical next step for Syncona and we look forward to watching it, and the companies it supports, expand and prosper.”
“The UK’s world-leading position in life-science innovation needs a deep pool of expert, long-term capital that can support companies from inception through to product commercialization. Over the last four years, we have established a series of exciting life-science companies with the potential to deliver life-changing outcomes for patients suffering from debilitating diseases. Combining with BACIT allows Syncona to provide those companies with greater ongoing support as they grow and to make further investments in the life-science space,” commented Martin Murphy, Syncona's CEO. “We are very grateful for continued support from The Wellcome Trust and excited to be able to continue delivering on their original vision for Syncona. We equally welcome the partnership with Cancer Research UK and look forward to working with them to build oncology companies that will develop important new therapies for cancer patients, and to working closely with BACIT’s founder, Tom Henderson and the wider BACIT team.”
BACIT's plant is to invest roughly £100 million a year into premium life-sciences opportunities, with a minimum of 25 percent of its life- sciences assets allocated toward oncology businesses and projects. If BACIT successfully gets a majority interest in the Pioneer Fund, Cancer Research UK will invest approximately £17 million in new ordinary shares of BACIT, £7 million of which is in respect of its interest in the Pioneer Fund, and the rest of which is the value of its uncalled commitment to that interest. When the Fund is fully committed, Cancer Research UK and BACIT will enter into a pipeline agreement, under which the former will make life-science investments available to BACIT on a “first look” basis. A Syncona press release noted that BACIT will also continue to make a donation equal to 0.3 percent of the company's net asset value each year.
Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, remarked: “This partnership provides the opportunity to build a company with the vision and scale to bring significant long-term capital to the development of oncology programs, delivering new innovations faster to patients. This is an important step in our mission to bring forward the day when all cancers are beaten.”