U.K. Charity to Use Funds From Blockbuster Drug to Back Research

A U.K. charity plans to use as much as 500 million pounds ($638 million) of royalties garnered through Keytruda, the blockbuster cancer treatment from Merck & Co. that it helped develop more than a decade ago, to fund research into the most challenging medical needs.

LifeArc, which changed its name from MRC Technology this month, will make the investment over the next five years, it said in an emailed statement. The focus will be on areas such as personalized cancer medicine, neuroscience and antimicrobials against antibiotics resistance.

The charity aims to break ground on “scientifically important riskier opportunities that would otherwise be passed up by pharma companies, where research is driven by profit,” it said.

Keytruda harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer, including lung tumors. It’s one of Merck’s biggest products and is expected to generate $3.59 billion in sales this year, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Scientists from MRC helped humanize the antibody in 2006, meaning its protein sequence was engineered to make it more similar to what humans produce naturally.

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