Medical research charity lands £1bn from sale of royalties in cancer drug

LifeArc has sold its stake in pembrolizumab and will use the money to fund further research

A medical research charity has earned £1bn from the sale of its royalties in a cancer drug, becoming one of the UK’s richest charities as a result.

LifeArc owned a stake in the drug pembrolizumab, also known by the brand name Keytruda, which it sold to CPPIB Credit Europe S.a.r.l. for $1.3bn, equivalent to about £1bn.

According to Cancer Research UK, Keytruda is a type of immunotherapy drug used in treatments for cancers such as non-small-cell lung cancer, melanoma skin cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma.

LifeArc owned a stake in the royalties of the drug because of its role in the drug’s development.

The charity said in a statement that the sale would help to fund further medical research.

Dr Melanie Lee, chief executive of LifeArc, said: "At LifeArc, we advance promising research into new health interventions for patients and the public benefit. This agreement with CPPIB allows us to increase our support for new approaches and collaborations and bolster access to our expertise and resources.

"Ultimately, we can support life sciences research and accelerate the development of new therapies, diagnostics and devices for those people in greatest need."

The charity had previously sold a small portion of its royalty interest in Keytruda for $150m – equivalent to about £118m in today’s exchange rate – to a private equity fund in 2007.

That 2007 sale led to the creation of two £30m funds: the LifeArc Philanthropic Fund for transatlantic research into rare diseases; and the Life Arc Seed Fund to support early-stage spin-out companies.

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