LifeArc boosts investment in Cambridge University spin-out PolyProx Therapeutics to advance new class of cancer medicines

2 March 2020 – LifeArc, a UK-based medical research charity, has invested £1 million from its Seed Fund in Cambridge Biopharmaceutical company PolyProx Therapeutics to progress a potentially new class of cancer drugs. This investment will help to advance studies to validate polyproxin® molecules as potential drug candidates across a range of cancers that are historically intractable, or hard-to-treat.

The polyproxin® technology, which is an analogous biological approach to small molecule proteolysis targeting chimera degraders, uses state-of-the-art bioinformatic and protein engineering techniques. The potential advantages of polyproxin® technology are to open access to currently intractable drug targets and broaden the repertoire of natural degradation pathways. The company’s current drug discovery projects will target cancer proteins for degradation using the natural machinery within cells. These projects may be of benefit in several cancer types, including colorectal, pancreatic and lung. This new approach could potentially lead to improvements in health outcomes in patients with few remaining treatment options.

Enrique Milan, Investment Principal, LifeArc Seed Fund, who will sit on the PolyProx Therapeutics board commented: “LifeArc’s Seed Fund was established to help translate promising medical research into patient benefit. We are excited to be working with the PolyProx team on the development of a novel, first-in-class therapeutic modality that could potentially address some of the challenges in cancer treatment.”

Polyproxin® molecules selectively target disease-causing proteins within tumour cells, which are usually hard-to-drug, while engaging cellular degradation pathways to eliminate these proteins and so inhibit further growth of the tumour.

Andrew Sandham, Executive Chairman, PolyProx Therapeutics said: “We are delighted to welcome LifeArc as an investor, which enables us to expand our drug discovery resources following our recent move to new laboratories in Cambridge. We have made exciting progress on our polyproxin® drug discovery projects in oncology and look forward to sharing proof of concept data with prospective investors and partners later this year.”

This investment from LifeArc is in addition to the £3.4 million raised in 2019 from Cambridge Innovation Capital plc (CIC), RT Capital and Cambridge Enterprise.

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Media contacts

Surinder Maan

Communications Manager, LifeArc 

Notes to editors

About LifeArc

LifeArc is a self-funded medical research charity. Our mission is to advance translation of early science into health care treatments or diagnostics that can be taken through to full development and made available to patients. We have been doing this for more than 25 years and our work has resulted in a diagnostic for antibiotic resistance and four licensed medicines.

Our success allows us to explore new approaches to stimulate and fund translation. We have our own drug discovery and diagnostics development facilities, supported by experts in technology transfer and intellectual property who also provide services to other organisations. Our model is built on collaboration, and we partner with a broad range of groups including medical research charities, research organisations, industry and academic scientists. We are motivated by patient need and scientific opportunity.

Two funds help us to invest in external projects for the benefit of patients: our Philanthropic Fund provides grants to support medical research projects focused on the translation of rare diseases research and our Seed Fund is aimed at start-up companies focussed on developing new therapeutics and biological modalities.

Find out more about our work on or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

About translational research

Translational research in medicine is to go from “bench-to-bedside”. It covers the activities, expertise and processes required to turn lab-based research into new approaches that benefit human health and ideally provide economic returns. The aim is to develop new therapies, medical procedures, devices or diagnostics that can be used in humans.

The ability to translate UK R&D innovation into public and economic benefit for the UK was identified as a priority for the UK in the 2017 Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the Future. There are a number of barriers to effective translation including a need for more access to skills and knowledge, funding needs, capacity of organisations to innovate and regulatory challenges.