Main Menu

Cancer drug discoverer honoured with global entrepreneurship award



Sunday 1 July 2012



Professor Paul Workman from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) has won a global award recognising his success at taking pioneering drugs out of the laboratory and into commercial development for the ultimate benefit of patients worldwide.

The Royal Society of Chemistry announced today that it had chosen Professor Workman, the ICR’s Deputy Chief Executive and Head of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR, as the recipient of its 2012 Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

RSC President Professor David Phillips cited Professor Workman for his “work as a scientific pioneer and serial entrepreneur whose numerous commercialised discoveries and academic research led to his founding two successful chemical companies: Piramed Pharma and Chroma Therapeutics”.

Piramed, which has since been acquired by Roche, was founded to discover and develop drugs targeting PI3 kinase, which is important in cancer progression and drug resistance. Chroma was established to design drugs that target cancer-causing errors in the way the body reads the DNA code, such as HDAC inhibitors. Each company has progressed innovative drugs into patient trials, with evidence of therapeutic benefit. Both companies worked closely with the ICR’s Cancer Therapeutics Unit to discover drug candidates.

Professor Workman’s entrepreneurial approach and willingness to tackle high-risk targets has also led to the commercialization of other projects through licensing deals with biotech and large pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis and AstraZeneca.  In total, Professor Workman’s team at the ICR has discovered 16 new drug candidates over the past six years, and progressed six of these into clinical trial. Professor Workman was the 2010 winner of another major award from the RSC, namely the George & Christine Sosnovsky Award in Cancer Therapy, for his work discovering exciting new anti-cancer drugs acting on molecular chaperones.

Professor Workman said: “Successful drug discovery is incredibly complex and requires not just scientific expertise but also great people. It has been a real privilege for me to build a high-performing, multidisciplinary team and to collaborate with some fantastic colleagues. Also, because we want to bring effective new drugs to patients as fast possible, it’s been important for us to build a network of commercial collaborations. Many of our drugs have been discovered in collaboration with – or licensed to – biotech or pharmaceutical companies, and our culture of team science and proactive interaction with industry has been crucial to our success. Commercial success is important for the economy and provides income we can reinvest in our research – but the main motivation for me is that the drugs we discover through our science have a real impact on the lives of cancer patients.”

The Royal Society of Chemistry is the professional body for chemical scientists and the largest organisation in Europe dedicated to advancing the sector. The Entrepreneur of the Year Award was set up to recognise leading individuals who have contributed to the commercialisation of research.

Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research Professor Alan Ashworth said: “Professor Workman and his team have an unparalleled record in discovering new cancer drugs and progressing these into the clinic. Paul’s innovative science and entrepreneurial approach, as well as his ability to build highly productive multidisciplinary teams, has led to a tremendous record of achievement that really exemplifies how the non-profit sector can play a leading role in the search for new cancer drugs. I warmly congratulate him for this well-deserved award.”

Dr David Scott, director of science funding at Cancer Research UK, which is a major supporter or Professor Workman's research, said: "We're delighted that Professor Workman's work has been recognised by this prestigious award. His approach of bringing together laboratory research with the commercial realities of developing new drugs, has built a model where new discoveries are rapidly benefiting patients. Some of the discoveries that are being made at the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR could soon form the backbone for cancer treatments of the future."

The award will officially be presented on November 9 2012 in Birmingham.




Media Contact: ICR Science Communications Manager Jane Bunce on 0207 153 5106


Notes to editors:

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is one of the world’s most influential cancer research institutes.

Scientists and clinicians at the ICR are working every day to make a real impact on cancer patients’ lives. Through its unique partnership with The Royal Marsden Hospital and ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach, the ICR is able to create and deliver results in a way that other institutions cannot. Together the two organisations are rated in the top four cancer centres globally.

The ICR has an outstanding record of achievement dating back more than 100 years. It provided the first convincing evidence that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer, laying the foundation for the now universally accepted idea that cancer is a genetic disease. Today it leads the world at isolating cancer-related genes and discovering new targeted drugs for personalised cancer treatment.

As a college of the University of London, the ICR provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction. It has charitable status and relies on support from partner organisations, charities and the general public.

The ICR’s mission is to make the discoveries that defeat cancer. For more information visit 

comments powered by Disqus