Questions and answers
Please note that a more comprehensive Q&A in the form of an ‘applicant briefing document’ is currently being prepared, and will be available from this site in due course. In the meantime, specific questions should be addressed to your local representative of the Apollo Imperial Management group (see contacts above) who will guide you through the process for applying and answer your questions.
Presented below are some quick Q&As that cover some straightforward questions:
Questions and answers
Who may apply for Apollo funding?
Apollo is intended for Imperial College or associate NHS trust staff who wish to progress early stage therapeutic innovations through discovery and into pre-clinical development. Academic staff at Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Cambridge may apply for funding through Apollo. Your application can involve co-applicants from other organisations as long as you are the primary applicant.
How much can I apply for?
Apollo will allocate funding amounts on a per-project basis. There is no formal minimum or maximum range for the amount for which you may apply and all funding decisions ultimately lie with the Apollo Investment Committee.
It is anticipated that some projects could be progressed with a smaller amount of investment (in the region of £150,000) which would be focused on a key experiment to de-risk the technology, prior to returning to Apollo and seeking more significant funding. However, other, probably more advanced projects are likely require a more significant sum to be invested from the beginning (e.g. £3.0m)
Will all the money awarded come to my lab?
No. Apollo has been set-up to fund the preclinical development of new therapeutics. It is expected that a proportion of any project funding will come to your lab to fund those elements where your academic expertise and local resources are vital. However, some elements (for example, but not limited to: chemical synthesis, toxicology or GMP manufacture) may be outsourced to contract organisations and the funding will flow directly to such organisations from Apollo. The DDT can advise on how the contracting side and flow of information will be handled for each project. Remember, you retain the right to opt-out prior to contract signing so if you are not ultimately comfortable with the proposal then you do not have to proceed.
When is the application date?
Apollo is effectively run as an open funding call, with no closing dates or application windows. Apollo is projected to invest in projects over a 6-8 year period, and applications may be made until such time as the fund closes for new investments.
How does Apollo differ from other translational funding sources?
There are many translational funding schemes that represent valuable sources of funding for researchers. Apollo is aimed specifically at providing the sort of investment required to convert scientifically interesting projects into more advanced and substantially de-risked development projects, increasing the chances of achieving clinical impact. Another key difference is the benefit researchers will receive from the commercial expertise of a dedicated drug discovery team within Apollo, made up of ex-industry scientists.
The Apollo Therapeutics Fund founders believe that there are more good ideas than there is translational funding available and (crucially) such ideas would benefit from earlier engagement and expert assistance from industry scientists.
Do I have to work with Apollo?
No. Academic staff at Imperial are under no obligation to show their projects to Apollo nor to apply for funding from it.
You may be approached by members of staff from the College, from Innovations or from the Apollo Drug Discovery team who may ask you if you wish to consider working with Apollo, but you can decide not to.
At any time, you are free to have a no-obligation, non-confidential discussion with the Apollo Drug Discovery Team about your project and see what Apollo can offer you, but you don’t have to apply if you don’t want to.
How does the application process work?
- Initially, applications to Apollo go through the AIM group, Imperial Innovations and the Apollo Drug Discovery team. The Drug Discovery Team is ultimately responsible for vetting projects and working up applications to Apollo funding. The Drug Discovery Team is effectively the first gatekeeper – if they do not agree to progress your project you may not apply for funding.
- Once the Drug Discovery Team has decided to progress your project, and you have decided to work with Apollo, Imperial College and Imperial Innovations will enter into a series of agreements with Apollo and you, related to the development of the project.
- A confidentiality agreement will be signed that includes a period of ‘exclusivity’ during which you agree to not simultaneously apply to other sources of funding to do the same work. You will be made aware of the detailed terms relating to this at the time and if you do not like them you are under no obligation to proceed.
- Once the confidentiality agreement is signed, a member of the Drug Discovery Team, and a member of Imperial Innovations, will work with you to rapidly generate a project plan. Projects will be designed to generate a package of data, intellectual property and knowhow that is commercially viable and capable of being licensed to a company to allow further development in the clinic.
- If necessary, a complete project will be developed with funding of £2.5m to £3m (or more). Some projects may require some key experiments to be performed first, and these are expected to be funded up to £150,000. Your Drug Discovery Team representative can advise you on the best route forward.
- Projects will be subject to milestones, and the funding may be used for significant outsourced work through contract research organisations.
- Project proposals will be submitted to the Apollo Investment Committee (AIC), which will provide a rapid decision. If the project is funded, funding agreements will be put in place between Apollo and Imperial Innovations, and any funding to your lab will be contracted directly from Apollo to the College.
- If your project is not funded, you and Apollo have no further obligations to each other except to respect confidential information. Your confidential information remains your own. You must request to use Apollo confidential information (e.g. that provided by the DDT or pharma partners during the work-up phase) if you require it to further progress your project.
How long will the process take?
For a full application, the process from application to acceptance should take no longer than six months and in many cases, less than this. For smaller awards, a ‘lighter touch’ application process will be put in place.
Why is this needed when translational funding from e.g. Wellcome and the MRC already exists?
The translational funding provided via schemes such as the MRC Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme and charitable translational awards such as the Wellcome Trust Health Innovation Challenge Fund represent an extremely valuable source of funding for researchers to help move early stage ideas towards the clinic.
Apollo funding is NOT intended to replace this type of funding. It offers an alternative to applicants that feel they would benefit from earlier engagement and expert assistance from industry scientists.
A detailed comparison of the different funding schemes available will be added to this site is due course.
Why these three universities and three pharmaceutical companies?
Imperial College, UCL and the University of Cambridge are three of the world’s top ten universities and have long been global powerhouses with research outputs of the highest quality. This reflects their significant research funding but also their strong links to clinical practice through associated medical schools and NHS infrastructure. The university partners are also located along the M11 Cambridge-London ‘Bioscience Corridor’ which includes the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst and Cell Therapy Catapult. The industry partners have a rich heritage of collaboration and partnership with academia. Building on these established relationships the Apollo partners’ vision has been to integrate these combined strengths exactly at the interface where both industry and academia can benefit by nurturing the emerging opportunities.
Is this a consortium or a fund or a joint venture?
The Apollo Therapeutics Fund is legally structured as a joint venture partnership between the parties. The partnership takes the form of an LLP incorporated under English law.
Who contributed to the fund and how much did each party put in?
The six partners have committed £40m between them. These funds will be applied to translating projects out of university labs through to early proof of concept. Each industry partner has committed £10 million, and each TTO £3.3 million.
Will the funding be delivered equally across all three universities?
Not necessarily. The Apollo Therapeutics Fund will fund selected projects from any one of the three universities with each project evaluated on its own merits by an independent investment committee. It will provide translational funding on a project-by-project basis through to agreed pre-clinical milestones (e.g. lead optimisation, candidate selection, CTA submission).
What's in it for the universities and the industry partners?
The three universities will benefit from access to a substantial fund dedicated to translating projects out of university labs through to early proof of concept – the sort of investment required to convert these scientifically interesting projects to more advanced and substantially de-risked development projects, maximising the chances of achieving clinical impact from their research base. In addition, through the Apollo Therapeutics Fund they will benefit from the commercial expertise of a dedicated drug discovery team of ex-industry scientists.
The three industry partners will actively participate in projects and, on a discretionary basis, may provide access to certain in-house expertise and know-how, as well as other resources where appropriate. This provides them with early visibility of projects as they move through discovery, the ability for them to shape their development, and confers to them the preferential rights to acquire and further shape the programmes using their own resources.
What role do the industry partners play in the JV?
In addition to providing the bulk of the funding, the industry partners may, on a discretionary basis, provide access to their in-house experts, know-how and other additional resources to assist with the development and the commercial evaluation of projects. They are also the ideal partners to subsequently take on the further development of successful projects to make the next generation of successful medicines.
Where will the Apollo Therapeutics Fund be based?
The Drug Discovery Team (DDT) will be based at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst but will actively source projects locally at each of the universities through interaction with the academics and TTOs. DDT staff will spend much of their time face to face with researchers and managing projects at the originating institutes in Cambridge and London. Academics will not be expected to go to Stevenage.
Who makes the decisions to fund?
The Apollo Investment Committee makes all investment decisions and comprises representatives from the six partners. Led by an independent Chairman, it has overall responsibility for the management and control of the business and affairs of the joint venture with the power and authority to take any decisions of the joint venture. The Chairman is Ian Tomlinson – former SVP Worldwide Business Development and BioPharmaceutical R&D for GSK, and founder/CSO of Domantis Ltd.
Who is CEO of the Apollo Therapeutics Fund and what is their role?
The role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is currently being recruited for. The successful candidate will be responsible for managing the Drug Discovery Team (DDT), its activities to deliver investment projects, and for reporting to the Apollo Investment Committee.
How will the fund operate?
The Apollo Investment Committee makes all investment decisions and comprises representatives from the six partners. It will act as a combined strategy and investment committee for the joint venture. The Apollo Investment Committee will be responsible for agreeing project plans, investment amounts, and the terms of an out-licensing deal, or spin-outs, for any asset that receives Apollo Therapeutics Fund funding.
A dedicated Drug Discovery Team (DDT), led by the Chief Executive Officer is responsible for reviewing potential projects and making recommendations to the Apollo Investment Committee for projects to be considered for funding. When the latter has decided to fund a project, the DDT will be responsible for overseeing, managing and leading the project. This team will be drawn from industry, will be independent of the universities and pharmaceutical partners, and will run the projects to established industry standards.
How will projects be run?
The DDT, led by the CEO will be responsible for delivering projects and in particular for:
- Working with each of the Universities, Principal Investigators and TTOs to develop a pipeline of opportunities for the Apollo Therapeutics Fund
- Developing project investment proposals for review by the Apollo Investment Committee.
- Leveraging connections with industry partners to build insight and access additional resources.
- Running and management of invested Apollo Therapeutics Fund projects in close consultation with the PIs
Who will provide scientific oversight?
A Scientific Advisory Board has been created from leading academic individuals from within each of the three universities with proven ability to identify and develop drugs that have originated from university research within the three Universities and highly experienced and entrepreneurial individuals from the industry partners. The Scientific Advisory Board will be responsible for reviewing and considering potential projects and projects that are being funded and in particular will assist and advise the Apollo Investment Committee on the scientific merits of the projects; it will advise on whether milestones have been achieved requiring the joint venture to advance further funding. Its role will be advisory or consulting in nature.
Who is responsible for the managing commercial licencing decisions?
The TTOs will own all arising IP and will be responsible for coordinating the out-licensing activities of projects arising from their respective universities. The consent of the Apollo Investment Committee is required before any out-licensing deal can be agreed and completed.
How is revenue distributed to each party if technology is licenced?
In return for providing funding, the Apollo Therapeutics Fund will receive 50% of all future commercial revenues received upon the out-licensing of the funded assets, while the originating university and TTO will collectively receive the other 50% in return for providing the initial project. This is the same level of revenue share taken by the Welcome Trust for Seeding Drug Discovery awards and by Cancer Research technology for CRUK funded projects.
Do the industry partners have any first-refusal rights over technology developed through the fund?
Yes. If a project is successfully completed then the three industry partners will each have the option of entering into a licence granting it rights to commercialise any intellectual property developed as part of the project on arms-length commercial terms
How will any disputes be managed, if more than one of the industry partners wants access to a project?
Each industry partner may propose indicative terms following the completion of certain milestones as defined in the project plan for a specific project. These proposals are received by the Apollo Investment Committee and a decision is reached as to which, if any, proposal is suitable.
In cases where a particular industry partner is deemed to have provided particular assistance, know-how or resources to a project above and beyond that provided by the DDT then the Apollo Investment Committee may grant that industry partner priority rights to negotiate a licence.
What specialisms does this fund cover? Are these prescribed?
The Apollo Therapeutics Fund is focussed on therapeutics (or platform technologies which may aid the development and identification of therapeutics) with a preference for the indications listed in the Project criteria page. In addition, any modality will be considered (e.g. small molecules, peptides, proteins, antibodies and gene/cell therapies). For example, the Apollo Therapeutics Fund may fund (but is not limited to) projects in the fields of Respiratory Illness, Inflammation, Oncology, Metabolic & Cardiovascular illness, Infectious Disease, Neuroscience and Rare diseases.
How many projects will the fund finance in total?
It will depend very much on the size and type of investment opportunities that arise. Projects will be selected to flow through Apollo during an investment period that will likely run for 6-8 years.
How will projects be monitored and progressed?
The DDT will be responsible for overseeing, managing and leading projects, taking advice from the Scientific Advisory Board to determine that pre-agreed milestones have been met.
Selected projects will receive funding in tranches to develop the assets to late stage preclinical validation. Projects will progress through a series of go/no go decision points to track projects success or failure at each stage.