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ICR and Merck renew strategic alliance in discovery and development of innovative new small-molecule cancer drugs

A sign reading 'Merck' outside a Merck building in Darmstadt, Germany

Image credit: Merck KGaA

The Institute of Cancer Research and science and technology company Merck KGaA have renewed their strategic alliance in the discovery and development of new cancer drugs.

Scientists in the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery at the ICR will work with researchers at Merck on a range of related projects, each of which aim to discover and develop new small-molecule inhibitors of an exciting new class of cancer targets.

The multi-target, multi-year collaboration involves significant financial and staff commitments from both parties, including Merck funding nine full-time research posts at the ICR.

The new agreement is a demonstration of both organisations’ ongoing commitment to innovation in cancer drug discovery, with both parties contributing their extensive drug discovery expertise to the partnership.

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The Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery at the ICR is one of the world’s leading academic centres of its kind. Formerly known as the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit – but now independent from Cancer Research UK – scientists at the Centre have discovered 21 drug candidates since 2005, of which 13 have reached clinical trials.

In 2021 the ICR formally opened a new £70m building on its site in Sutton, South London, which now houses around 300 scientists working across a full range of disciplines in cancer drug discovery. It is fuelled by specialised Centres including its Centre for Target Validation and Centre for Protein Degradation.

Merck KGaA is a global leader in oncology, and a pioneer in establishing mutually beneficial partnerships with academic institutes like the ICR.

Professor Olivia Rossanese, Head of the Division of Cancer Therapeutics and Director of the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery at the ICR, said:

“We’re delighted to announce the renewal of our strategic alliance with Merck KGaA, and the latest chapter in a partnership that has now lasted for almost 20 years. As ever we’ll be working together on a range of projects that combine our expertise in drug discovery with our deep biological insights into cancer, with a focus on discovering innovative small-molecule therapeutics.

“This new agreement demonstrates our commitment to translating our research programmes into the clinic in collaboration with industry partners – of whom we have more than 100 at the ICR – and ultimately to delivering new, life-saving treatments to cancer patients.”

We're recruiting for several new senior scientific roles in the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery.

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Dr Jon Wilkinson, Director of Business and Innovation at The Institute of Cancer Research, said:

“Our long-term alliance with Merck in drug discovery and development is continuing to go from strength to strength, and it’s a pleasure to renew it again. Our work together is a great example of a long-term, effective partnership that involves genuine collaboration, integration and shared responsibility – and of great science in understanding exciting, innovative targets that could lead to new cancer drugs.”


industry Olivia Rossanese Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery partnership collaboration oncology centre for protein degradation small molecule therapeutics small molecules merck Centre for Target Validation
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