OUI's Gregg Bayes-Brown talks to Evotec's Thomas Hanke about what Lab282 has achieved in its first two years and what is next for the partnership.

When it was conceived, Lab282 was a unique concept to accelerate therapeutics research emerging from University of Oxford quickly towards commercial reality. A partnership between University of Oxford, its $800m university venture fund Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI) and drug discovery company Evotec, Lab282 utilises  world-leading research from the university and know-how from its innovation arm Oxford University Innovation (OUI), validates the research with industry expertise from Evotec, and catalyses the outcomes towards spinning out with funding from OSI.

Initially planned to run for three years, Lab282 is two years old this month. Gregg Bayes-Brown sat down with Thomas Hanke, Evotec’s expert-in-residence, to see how the initiative is working out so far.

Two years in, how is Lab282 shaping up?

I would say we are now well anchored in the University of Oxford. We have built a close relationship with our partners in Lab282 – OUI, OSI and the researcher base providing the ideas. This is allowing us to rapidly implement truly novel therapeutic concepts, and we at Evotec continue to bring our expertise to validate those ideas.

To date, we have approved 22 investments in 19 projects with three follow-on rounds. Those rounds, where projects have gone from small awards – £25,000 ($32,000) to £50,000 – to large – £250,000 to £500,000 – demonstrates both the enduring confidence we have in these concepts and the confidence researchers have placed in us to develop their ideas for real-world impact.

What projects are you seeing come through Lab282?

Overall, 31 applications have come into Lab282, demonstrating a high degree of success for applications receiving our funding and support. It is still too early to say publicly what we have in the pipeline, but we expect to see eight of our 19 accepted projects completed by the end of the year, and we are pleased with the overall progression of the project portfolio. Making technically valid projects commercially viable will be a focus for us in 2019.

In order to facilitate that, we have extended our large-scale award from £250,000 to a maximum of £500,000, and we are now focused on making more of the large awards to get Lab282 projects to the inflection point where we can start talking about spinning them out.

Is Lab282 living up to Evotec’s expectations?

We created Lab282 as we wanted to present a unique opportunity to University of Oxford researchers to use our resources and expertise to test therapeutic hypotheses and give them a genuine chance at creating impact. By that metric, we are very much on track.

Our goal was to support 30 to 40 projects over the course of Lab282’s three-year lifecycle, and ultimately to create three to four spinouts as a result. An expected success rate of 10% may seem pessimistic, but we see this as realistic and the attrition as a function of identifying true technological success.

This is still our goal, and we expect to hit it over the next 12 months. We still have money to spend, and we are committed to finding another 10 to 15 projects to fund over the coming year.

We welcome academics who want to reach out. You can find more details on our website, which also details our offer, or drop by on Tuesdays at our hotdesk in the Bioescalator.

What does Evotec get from the Lab282 deal?

The Lab strategy allows us to interact with excellent scientists and research centres. Through bringing our expertise and funding, we can create companies in which we can be a strategic investor. In 2017, we contributed €22m ($25m) to biotech startups and we are now a strategic investor in eight companies across Europe.

Lab282 was our first and remains our flagship – the name is derived from the pantone colour code for “Oxford blue”. Based on the success so far, Evotec has committed to creating 10 Labs in North America and Europe by 2020. To date, we have already created four, including Lab282.

The other three are:

  • Lab150, a Canadian partnership with commercialisation firm Mars Innovation and the University of Toronto, created to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.
  • Lab591, a Seattle-based Lab working with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre to develop novel cancer and immunotherapies, such as those underpinning Fred Hutch’s spinout Juno Therapeutics. Fred Hutch is named after founder William Hutchinson’s brother, professional baseball player Fred, and the Lab is named in honour of his 591 strikeouts.
  • Lab031 refers to the area code in France where it is based and is a collaboration with pharmaceutical firm Sanofi and numerous universities across the country.

More will be launched in the coming months.

What is next for Lab282?

The initial three-year partnership runs until November 2019, and we will continue to collect projects over those 12 months. As for what comes after, we are in discussions with OUI and OSI for Lab282 version two.

We are currently analysing how the partnership has gone to date to make it broader, better value for all partners, and make it an even stronger overall proposition for the university and its researchers when we roll out the second stage.

This renewed partnership may even have new partners, but at present, all founding partners are keen to see Lab282 return, and we hope to have news on this in the coming months.

– This article first appeared on Oxford University Innovation’s blog. It has been republished with permission from the author.