Bristows assists global top-ten universities on $145 million financing for biopharmaceutical research

The novel partnership provides expertise to early-stage research, reducing risks and evaluating the commercial viability of innovative drugs


London, UK, 8 July, 2021 –The corporate and IP transactions teams of London-headquartered law firm Bristows, leader in the life sciences field, assisted four of the beneficiaries of biopharmaceutical portfolio company Apollo Therapeutics with negotiation and drafting of a $145 million (over £100 million) financing deal for research, which closed on 17 June.

Apollo was originally established in late 2015 as a unique joint venture by three global-top-ten universities (the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, UCL – University College London) with three major pharmaceutical companies: AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. IP Group retains a minority stake in the new company, acquired as a result of its acquisition of Touchstone Innovations. The unique partnership follows a portfolio-based model which enables academics to develop their research into marketable products, by offering funding and expertise in evaluating the commercial viability of innovative therapies, technologies, and applications, in all fields. Over 15 projects are currently ongoing.

Thanks to the new growth capital and injection of a further $145 million, the renewed partnership aims at developing new work in areas such as cancer, major inflammatory disorders, and rare diseases. Apollo’s funding – led by Patient Square Capital – will also allow it to partner with global academic institutions.

Bristows acted for tech transfer subsidiaries of the three academic institutions (Imperial College Innovations Ltd, UCL Business Ltd, Cambridge Enterprise Ltd) and for IP2IPO Innovations Ltd, an IP Group company, which acquired its interest in Apollo following IP Group’s acquisition of Touchstone. The firm fielded a team led by both corporate partner Iain Redford, head of Bristows’ corporate practice (and the firm’s senior partner), and IP transactions partner Richard Dickinson, co-head of the life sciences sector cross-group team; and included associates Emma Charlton (corporate), Adam Coughlin and Erik Müürsepp (both IP transactions).

The team advised on revisions to the existing Apollo structure; established the participation of Bristows’ clients into the new venture, and advised on the agreements under which the academic institutions can access the new funds held by Apollo for research, as well as the subsequent licensing-back option arrangements for the commercial exploitation of the research results.

Bristows is a well-known legal force in the life sciences field, as it acts for other academic institutions such as Oxford University, as well as multinational companies in the pharma, biotech, medical devices, gene editing sectors, such as Novartis, AstraZeneca, Vectura, Chiesi Farmaceutici, Teva, Pfizer, J&J, Smith + Nephew, and more.

Cambridge Enterprise’s Head of Life Sciences, Iain Thomas, said “This unusual transaction has the potential to change the way UK universities commercialise their therapeutic innovations – it is not just another investment,” and added: “Bristows’ knowledge of the life sciences market and players, as well as their licensing expertise, was invaluable as we navigated this complex transaction.”

Richard Fagan, Director of BioPharma at UCL Business said “UCLB has worked with Bristows for over 25 years, in relation to intellectual property licensing transactions as well as corporate transactions such as spinout formation. Their expertise made them the perfect partner to work with on the highly complex Apollo transaction, navigating the needs of the 3 academic institutions and their related TTO’s as well as the industrial investors. They enabled a very positive conclusion to the overall deal.”

Director of Industry Partnerships and Commercialisation at Imperial College London, Stephanie Morris said “Apollo Therapeutics exemplifies the benefits of leading universities and industry partners showing courage and foresight to create something new, with the result an innovative model for translating emerging therapeutics. It isn’t easy and needs drive from many parties. Bristows was a valued partner in the success of making our vision become a reality.”

Others law firms involved in the deal were Taylor Wessing and Cooley, respectively acting on the corporate and commercial IP side for Apollo; and Kirkland & Ellis, acting for lead funder Patient Square Capital.

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