Almac Discovery agrees drug development deal with Genentech

Craigavon based company will initially receive an upfront payment of more than £9m

Almac Discovery, the Northern Ireland biopharmaceutical company, has agreed a drug development deal with Californian-based Genentech which could be worth more than £225 million (€311 million).

The Craigavon based company, an independent member of the Almac Group, will initially receive an upfront payment of more than £9 million (€12.4 million) under the terms of the deal which could produce new cancer fighting techniques.

Almac Discovery and Genentech, which is part of the Roche Group, have teamed up to license and further develop a new class of drug molecules that could according to the companies “offer a novel approach for the treatment of cancer”.

The drug molecules work by blocking the activity of an important cancer pathway which Almac Discovery says is believed to play a key role in tumour development.


According to Almac Discovery the new drug molecules represent a “major breakthrough” in the field of pharmaceutical research.

Almac Discovery’s small molecule inhibitors will form the starting point for a two-year joint research programme funded by Genentec, who will be responsible for all pre-clinical and clinical development and commercialisation of products arising from the partnership.

Stephen Barr, president Almac Discovery, believes both organisations will complement each other in the new partnership because they are both like-minded and research driven.

“Genentech is an undoubted leader in oncology development and this, coupled with their in-depth knowledge in the USP (ubiquitin specific proteases) area, is the perfect complement for us. We feel confident that Genentech is the best partner to expedite the translation of our medicinal chemistry and biology efforts into the clinic,” Mr Barr added.

James Sabry, senior vice president and global head of Genentech Partnering, said both organisations hope to discover and develop therapies that will potentially “advance the standard of care for patients with cancer”.

Separately another Californian based group has today announced plans to partner with the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University, Belfast for a significant R&D project worth £5.5 million.

CV6 and Queen’s aim to develop a new drug with the potential to make chemotherapy more effective.

Ten new research jobs will be created as a result of the R&D project and Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI - which is supporting the project with £2.5 million of financial backing - said it will also deliver a major boost to the life sciences sector in the North.

“This project not only has the potential to result in advancements in cancer treatment worldwide but will deliver significant supply chain economic benefits to Northern Ireland of £1.85million,” Mr Hamilton said.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business