Our CEO, Baroness Delyth Morgan, blogs about the Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme, launched earlier this week. 

Wednesday 10 February 2016      Guest blog
Baroness Delyth Morgan

For some time there has been a problem that’s perplexed us. For some time, an impenetrable wall has separated academia and the pharmaceutical industry’s strategic paths to progress in developing new breast cancer treatments.

For some time we’ve passionately believed that we could accelerate progress by bringing these two models and approaches to breast cancer research together in a more open way; by bringing down the wall and creating a new space in which, through collaboration, we could have the best of both worlds.

And we weren’t alone; there was a willingness and a recognition from all sides that change was needed, and our merger last year provided us with a unique opportunity to explore a solution. As one breast cancer research community, we now have a chance to make this happen.

To this end, we are delighted to finally announce the launch of The Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme, a new initiative designed to revolutionise collaborative breast cancer research in the UK and Europe.

The Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme will bring together the world’s leading researchers, the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies and other collaborators to pool resources, accelerate progress and stop women dying from breast cancer by 2050.

We believe the initiative is the start of a new era for breast cancer research in Europe, through a congruence of expertise, resources and approaches in a new model of collaboration, built to promote innovation and excellence in the field.

The initiative will give the academic community access to the pharmaceutical industry’s breast cancer back-catalogue: to their early molecules and drugs in development. Putting these resources into independent academic research projects, the Catalyst Programme ultimately aims to speed up the translation of findings into new, more effective targeted treatments for breast cancer patients.

Finally opening up the somewhat segregated pathways between industry and academia, the programme will create more transparency in the way that breast cancer research is conducted across Europe, exposing medicines in development to a new level of academic scrutiny.

We want women living with breast cancer to play a key role in the initiative’s direction. Through patient involvement in its advisory group, we’ll do everything we can to ensure patients’ voices are heard, so that they can influence the scope of the programme and the format of the funding.

The Catalyst Programme will invite researchers to submit proposals outlining exactly how they will use the compounds and the funding to develop more effective ways of treating breast cancer. Applications will be independently peer-reviewed to ensure that only research of the highest international quality is funded.

I’m delighted to say that we already have our first collaborator in place, biopharmaceutical company Pfizer, who have pledged $15milllion (around £10m) to the initiative over three years and have granted access to more than 14 existing drugs and drugs-in-development. We are currently in advanced talks with a number of other firms to see who will be next on board, so do watch this space.

We are thrilled to have the backing of the Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman MP, and the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), and the initiative will also be fully supported with Medical Research Council Technology expertise.

All findings will be published, both positive and negative, in order to share and grow knowledge across the research community; to reach our vision of ensuring that no one dies from breast cancer by 2050, it is vital that we truly collaborate.

One question we will be quite rightly asked is around our policy and campaigning work. We’re determined to ensure access to the best possible breast cancer drugs for patients at a price the NHS can afford, and our independence in this activity will not be compromised in any way.

We’ll continue to comment independently and campaign strongly, ensuring our voice is heard on issues that matter most to those affected by breast cancer. If a drug manufactured by one of the initiative’s partners is not made routinely available on the NHS, and we feel this is because of the price that they’ve set, we will not hesitate to speak up.

We believe that, if we all act now, by 2050 everyone that develops breast cancer will live. To get there, we’ll need to open new doors in research and we hope this initiative will prove a significant catalyst for greater collaboration between academia and industry.

With this new mechanism, we will finally have a space that enables the world’s leading research academics to work with the world’s leading pharmaceutical resources – without compromising their independence or academic prowess – and that can only be a great thing for women with breast cancer, now and in the future.

More info

Find out more about The Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme


About the author

Baroness Delyth Morgan

Baroness Delyth Morgan is the Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now and sits as a crossbench peer in the House of Lords.

A science graduate and a Fellow of University College London, Delyth has worked in the voluntary sector for over 25 years, previously leading both Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer as Chief Executive.

She is also currently Patron of Pancreatic Cancer UK and The Sheila McKechnie Foundation, Honorary President of Cancer 52 and Chair of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), a partnership between government devolved administrations and charities.